A DEAF teacher, described by one of her students as inspirational, has been named the best in the North-East.

Noreen Chaplin, who teaches British Sign Language levels one and two and Deaf Awareness at Darlington College, was nominated for Teacher of the Year awards by one of her students.

Signature, the awards body and website for British Sign Language, yesterday bestowed Mrs Chaplin with the award.

After beating hundreds of other nominations from the region, Mrs Chaplin will represent the North-East at the national finals in November.

She said she was surprised, but very touched, to have been given the award.

“It would have meant a great deal to my parents to see me get this award. My husband and son are very proud of me,” she said.

Originally from Middlesbrough, Mrs Chaplin was born profoundly deaf. She later moved to Darlington and has taught at the college for 22 years, where she has helped thousands of people to learn sign language.

“Communication is important to deaf people. Parents who are deaf or who have deaf children need to know they are able to have the confidence to learn and that they’re not on their own,” she said.

Laura Brown, 22, a customer service assistant, who is also a part-time student in Mrs Chaplin’s class, nominated her teacher for the award.

She said: “I think Noreen is inspirational. She’s made a difficult subject fun to learn through the way she teaches, using activities and speaking of her own experiences.

“I would love to become a communicator in the future.”

Mrs Chaplin, who communicates through Sandie Alexander, a former student of hers who she also taught to sign, said it was her son, Gavin, who encouraged her to go into teaching.

“I absolutely love it,” she said. “I simply adore working with the students and teaching them about signing and how to communicate.”

College principal Tim Grant said the entire college was thrilled for Mrs Chaplin.

He said: “We are very proud to have her as a member of staff and she thoroughly deserves the recognition.”