Photo of Robyn McCarthy

Alumni profile

Robyn McCarthy

PME in Primary Education



St Joseph's Primary School in Tipperary Town


Majored in Sociology and Psychology in the University College of Cork


INTO Vere Foster Medal for Outstanding Performance in School Placement

Why did you choose teaching and why Hibernia College? 

As an Irish dance instructor, I always had a love for working with children and supporting young people. Although working in social care after my undergraduate degree was an extremely rewarding job, my passion for teaching never faded. Teachers have the power to make a real difference in a child’s life, and the idea of becoming someone that could be a positive role model to young children and help them succeed in life through education was something that pushed me further in the direction of primary teaching. I chose Hibernia College because the hybrid layout of the course was appealing to me. Hibernia College gave me the opportunity to continue working part-time as a substitute teacher, gaining more teaching experience while studying.

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

After my BA degree majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology from the University College of Cork, I worked as a social pedagogue in child and family services where I gained invaluable experience. During this period, before applying for Hibernia, I also worked as a substitute teacher in a local primary school. This substitution work solidified my decision to apply for Hibernia College, where I began my journey as a primary school teacher.

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

The focus of my dissertation was on the effective implementation of play-based learning to support literacy development. My passion for active learning and learning through play was inspired by my previous work experience as a social pedagogue, where I was given the opportunity to engage in a young boy’s home-school programme. The negative mindset this boy had towards education was apparent from the outset. This child would become visibly heightened by school books and reluctant to participate in any activities assigned by his class teacher. My educational background in sociology and psychology, of which the majority of modules undertaken in this undergraduate degree were fixed on psychology and sociology of education, inspired my teaching approach and research project. Collaborative practice with the class teacher enabled me to access the learning objectives intended for each lesson and manipulate each lesson into a fun, interactive and play-based experience. When the concept of ‘school books’ was removed and PBL was implemented, this child’s understanding, engagement and learning were paramount. Throughout each of my school placements, I ensured that I intertwined active learning strategies into each lesson I facilitated. I truly believe that the most successful learning takes place when a child is fully immersed in the learning process and is actively involved with the learning material.

Now that you have graduated, what are your plans?

As a newly qualified teacher, I am eager to learn more and continue my own educational journey as a primary school teacher. I am currently working in St Joseph’s Primary School in Tipperary Town. This year, I am teaching 19 First Class students. St Joseph’s Primary School was where I completed two of my school placements during my PME with Hibernia College. Creating a learning environment that is inclusive of the varying abilities, needs and personalities in my classroom and that is safe, welcoming and supportive is among the key goals I set out to achieve as a First Class teacher this year. In my role as a social pedagogue, I worked with children of all ages, with and without additional needs, in an out-of-home care setting with child and family services. From this experience, I gained an insight into how children from varying social backgrounds perceive school and the significant role a teacher has in creating a safe space for all children to learn. Working as part of such a supportive school environment is a dream come true for me. I am currently completing my Droichead process, and I am looking forward to the school year ahead.

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

My piece of advice for anyone considering the PME is to reach out to your local school and try and gain some teaching experience or classroom observation before applying for the course. Hibernia College is an intense two-year course, so be prepared to put in the work. Get yourself organised and take assignments at your own pace. School placement was my favourite element of the PME as it was where I could put my learning into action. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and use your co-operating teacher as a mentor.

Take the next step