Coláiste Bríde, Enniscorthy
BA in TSM French & Italian
Outstanding Performance in School Experience and Professional Practice Prize
Why did you choose teaching and why Hibernia College?
The realisation that a career in teaching would suit me came to me seven years after I finished my BA. I have always loved languages and the richness that they can bring to your life. After working as a trainer in a few industries I realised that putting training and my love of languages together could only lead to one career path for me! I joined Hibernia as it gave me the opportunity to work while completing my PME. I was fortunate enough to get a maternity contract in my first year of my PME and full hours of AEN classes for my second year. The blended learning model suited me perfectly as I got hands on experience with fantastic and supportive colleagues, while being able to attend lectures and complete assignments in the evenings.
What field of work or study were you in before you started your PME?
I finished my BA in French and Italian in 2013 and travel was the first thing on the agenda. I spent two years in Australia working for a sales and marketing company, initially in sales and then in staff training. From there, I was hired to join an airline in the UAE, where I spent four years flying and exploring the world and one year training staff both in the UAE and the Philippines. In the summer of 2020, I had the ‘click’, realising that I really enjoyed training people and missed using my languages. Consequently, I returned home, working as a wedding coordinator until I began my PME in the spring of ‘21. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to try several exciting jobs before beginning my teaching career and to know that none have been as personally fulfilling as teaching.
Can you tell us a bit about your research project and why you focused on this area?
My research project focused on Universal Design for Learning in the Modern Foreign Language classroom. I focused on this area as, being a language teacher, it was of great interest to me but also because the uptake of languages in schools is in decline. I wanted to research ways in which we could make language learning more accessible for students. It wasn’t until I was in the final years of my BA that I realised how I learn. I also was never top of my class in languages, in fact, I remember finding Italian extremely difficult in my first year of college. However, once I found out what learning method best suited me, I saw real progress. Education has transformed in the last 10 or so years, and with so much new knowledge and technology at our disposal I believe that we can make language learning far more accessible for students. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was a term I came across while researching the accessibility of education for students. At that time, I also had a class of 32 Junior Cycle French students of very mixed abilities, and I spent a lot of time considering how I could teach them all the same learning goal in different ways. This was key, and it caused me to reflect back to those years of struggling with Italian and trying to learn a language in a way that didn’t suit me. Knowing that within my class I had students with difficulties in literacy, numeracy, audio visual learners, kinaesthetic learners and read write learners caused me to consider all students and to anticipate the barriers that could arise during lessons, which in turn allowed me to prepare tools to support the students in advance of the lesson. I focused on UDL as it is a practical tool for teachers and found that while UDL does not depend on the use of technology, the learning that is available through the use of technology can support language learning for a huge number of mixed ability students. I found the research particularly rewarding when I could see the impact that the strategies had on my students.
Now that you have graduated, what are your plans?
I was fortunate enough to secure a fixed-term position in Coláiste Bríde, Enniscorthy. It’s a fantastic school with an extremely enthusiastic, supportive and collaborative staff. The school promotes strong teacher-student relations, while student-centred learning and wellbeing are very much at the heart of the school. It’s a wonderful environment to begin my teaching career in and I hope to continue my career in the school!
What piece of advice would you give to any person considering starting a PME?
Once your BA is done, try to get as much classroom experience as possible. Make yourself available for substituting and/or any opportunities to teach your subject. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone — you’ll be surprised how quickly you find your feet. Once you’ve started your PME, lean on the support of experienced teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice on teaching a certain topic, and don’t be afraid to share your ideas too. Finally, break up all of your assignments into chunks of small goals. It will make your work load seem so much easier! You’ll be taking on a lot for the two years, but you won’t be sorry you did it!