Grimsby Institute tutor honoured for helping youths build better lives
A TUTOR who turned his life around following a misspent youth has won a national award for his work with challenging youths – people he feels are "just like I was".
Mike Burton is the Grimsby Institute's tutor for entry level sport, a course for challenging students with no qualifications at all, many of whom have learning disabilities, display challenging behaviour or have come to the college through the Youth Offending Service.
And he has beaten off stiff competition to get the Positive Role Model award in the National Diversity awards, presented by former Big Brother winner Brian Dowling in Manchester.
However, the 28-year-old's life didn't always look so promising.
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Mr Burton went to 12 different primary schools because of family problems, then admits to "falling in with the wrong crowd" when he went to secondary school.
He left aged 16 without a single qualification, but soon came to a crossroads.
"I had a life-changing experience when I was 16," he said.
"Without going into details, I almost went to prison and my mum gave me an ultimatum – either sort your life out and go to college or leave home and carry on getting into trouble."
With no confidence in his academic ability, he chose an entry level sport qualification – the same course he now teaches – and took up rugby.
Now a Cleethorpes Rugby Team player and coach, Mr Burton continued: "I was an outgoing lad and didn't like being cooped up behind a computer so I thought sport was a good option.
"I had to basically start my life again and rugby gave me a whole new group of friends, which really helped."
After the two-year course, he had impressed the teaching staff so much that they offered him a job as a fitness instructor at the college's gym. He started his own business as a personal trainer and, in 2008, was offered the job as a tutor on the course he had done previously.
He has now been teaching for five years and even has a teaching qualification at degree level.
"If you had told me I could do an academic qualification ten years ago, I would never have believed you. I'm fully open about my past with all my students and I hope that my story will show them that progression is possible – and I believe it has," he said.
"I feel that students who display challenging behaviour or aren't bright are put aside by the education system, because I was. The aim of this entry-level course is to offer them something to help them turn a corner.
"The people in my class range from those with severe learning disabilities to people on tag. However, most have gone on to other courses and some on to employment, which shows what these people can achieve, if we don't give up on them."
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