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Alumni profile

Claire O’Grady

PME in Post-Primary Education



St. Angela's College, Cork


BA in History, Politics and Social Studies, University of Limerick


Overall Student of the Year

School Experience & Professional Practice

Why did you choose teaching & why  Hibernia College?

Teaching is something that has always been in the back of my mind since choosing my subjects for the leaving cert! I completed a BA in History, Politics and Social Studies at the University of Limerick, but then the travel bug hit. As amazing as the travelling was, it turns out it’s quite an expensive bug! When I got home I thought I’ll work for a year or so and save up some money to do a H-Dip. But then, long story short, life got in the way! Mortgages and children followed and I thought the opportunity to teach had passed me by. I used to find myself tuning into 2fm for their yearly special on the leaving cert, and quizzing up neighbours and family members on how they were getting on in secondary school, offering my amateur advice on their studies! At the same time, in my professional career, I found myself drifting towards the coaching and training roles, but ultimately I had wanted to inspire young people, the way some of my own teachers had inspired me. So, after the birth of my third child I decided to take some time out and consider my options. When I came across the PMEPP programme at Hibernia, it was like a light bulb moment! Their blended learning approach was exactly the medium I needed to achieve a life-long ambition without causing too much disruption to my home and family life.


What field of work or study were you in before you started your PME?

After college, my main field of work was customer service, but in the five years prior to the PME, I worked for Apple in Cork. I worked in Operations, so my role was a mix of customer service and data analysis. When I seriously began to think about the PME I couldn’t believe how transferrable many of the skills were to the classroom – communication skills for example, presentation skills, ICT skills, organization skills, the list could go on! I loved working for such a big and dynamic company not to mention the top class facilities, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.


Can you tell us a bit about your research project and why you focused on this area?

The new junior cycle requires students to learn for and about well-being. This concept was one I had come across during my time in the private sector, but the more time I spent studying things like the psychology of adolescence, the more I understood the importance of some formal requirement for well-being in schools. It’s quite a broad area however, so with a bit of research I began to narrow it down to what really interested me, which was the area of connectedness. One of the first research papers I read in this area found that school connectedness was second to only family in terms of the positive influence it can have on a young person’s life. Furthermore, it can be directly influenced by a school whereas a lot of other factors affecting a student’s well-being cannot. I also began to wonder as students formally learn for and about well-being, could this also have a positive affect on negating negative behavior such as bullying?


Now that you have graduated, what are your plans?

At the moment I feel really lucky to be honest. I have to confess that after a busy two years I had initially decided to take some time off to reacquaint myself with my family. But after the children went back to school in September, I wondered had I made the right decision. However, as luck would have it, an opportunity opened up in one of the schools where I completed my teaching placement! Its a great school with great staff and students so I’m looking forward to the months ahead! In another twist of fate, the recent announcement by Minister McHugh to grant history a special status in the new junior cycle might just work in my favour, being a history teacher!


What piece of advice would you give to any person considering starting a PME.

Go into it with your eyes open. Its tough work and a big commitment,  but its short-term. If teaching is a career path you have always wanted then the benefits will far outweigh the sacrifices. Personally, I was delighted that I had the chance to finally follow a career that I had always wanted but thought was out of reach. An additional bonus and and source of pride for me was actually successfully completing a Masters.


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