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Zara Roberts

May 14, 2010

Zara Roberts from Llangollen has been named Learner of the Year at  the Inspire! Adult Learner Awards 2010
For the first time I have realised my disabilities are accepted and I will work and lead as normal a life as possible
Zara Roberts, Adult Learner of the Year

A woman who overcame a car crash, multiple injuries and brain damage to become a teacher has been named Wales’ adult learner of the year.

Zara Roberts, 24, of Llangollen, Denbighshire, was honoured as “an inspiration to others” at an awards ceremony run by NIACE Dysgu Cymru.

“Zara has overcome incredible obstacles,” said the adult learning organisation’s director Richard Spear.

Ex-rugby star Scott Quinnell also won a special award for battling dyslexia.

Ms Roberts picked up her Inspire! award at Cardiff’s Coal Exchange after also being named as Wales’s young adult learner of the year.

The evening capped a remarkable comeback for her after she was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in 2004.

“I suffered traumatic brain injury, five broken ribs, punctured lung, fractured pelvis, elbow and ankle and tore the descending aorta from my heart,” said Ms Roberts.

Scott Quinnell

Scott Quinnell overcame dyslexia at the age of 33

“I had to learn to talk, walk and do everything from scratch like a baby.”

Before her accident, Ms Roberts was on her way to university to become a teacher, specialising in special needs.

In spite of her injuries she achieved an NVQ in support teaching at Coleg Llysfasi, Rhuthun.

While working on the course in a primary school, her tutor arranged a visit to a special school.

Following a meeting with the head teacher, Ms Roberts was offered voluntary work for three days a week.


In September 2009 she returned to the school on a full-time basis.

“The learning experience has given me my confidence back,” said Ms Roberts.

Further Education Learner of the Year: Terri George, Ebbw Vale
Community Learner of the Year: Ian Whitehill, Newport
Basic Skills Learner of the Year: Rachael Williams, Cardiff
Senior Learner of the Year (joint): Ada Evans, Merthyr, and Sybil Coleman, Swansea
ESOL Learner of the Year: Lutala Kabe, Newport
Welsh Learner of the Year: Margaret Odyomo, Chepstow
Community Action Group Award: The Gathering, Cardiff
Higher Education Learner of the Year: Tracey Hudson, Cardiff
Distance Learner of the Year: Katrina Sumner, Wrexham
Workplace Learner of the Year: Martin Dilworth, Prestatyn
Vocational Learner of the Year: Zoe Smith, Powys
Family and Intergenerational Learning Award: Central Infants Family Learning Class, Neath
Director’s Award (joint): Scott Quinnell, Monmouth, and Mike Rivers, Neath
Source: NIACE Dysgu Cymru

“For the first time I have realised my disabilities are accepted and I will work and lead as normal a life as possible.

“I would love to be employed as a support worker for special needs children, as to a certain degree I understand their frustrations. I hope to show them that like me, they too can succeed.”

Ms Roberts’ neurologist, Bob Rafal of North Wales Brain Injury Service, said: “We sometimes speak of rehabilitation as a battle, requiring tenacity and exceptional effort by the patient.

“If the analogy is correct, then Zara is a happy warrior and one of my heroes. She has the heart of a lion.

“She has not only overcome handicaps in mobility and speech to regain full independence but she has also steadfastly focused on the goal of preparing herself to help others.”

Mr Spear, director of NIACE Dysgu Cymru commented: “Zara really stands out as an example to others.

“She has overcome incredible obstacles to gain the experience and qualifications to help others, and is an excellent ambassador for adult learning in Wales.

“She was planning to become a teacher, suffered an horrific set back, had to learn to speak again, and is now on the road to becoming a teacher. If that’s not resilience, I don’t know what is.”

Quinnell, the former Llanelli, Wales and British Lions star, was the joint winner of NIACE Dysgu Cymru Director’s Award.

Unable to read or write until he was 33, his achievement in overcoming dyslexia was an inspiration for many adult learners, the organisation said.

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  1. North Wales Links

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