Lisheenkyle National School, Athenry
Education Software Engineer
Religious Education Award
I had spent 17 years working in the technology industry as a software engineer and while I thoroughly enjoyed my time there I felt that I wasn’t really contributing to society in a meaningful way. I volunteered in a couple of primary schools delivering Scratch programming sessions before I applied for the PME and I knew nearly straight away that an environment where cynicism didn’t exist was one where I wanted to be. I also loved the variation that primary school teaching offered. It was something that was going to take me out of my comfort zone but I was up for the challenge. Why Hibernia? Well, I have three young children and so attending a college full time wasn’t a realistic option and so the flexibility that Hibernia offered made it the right option for me.
As indicated above, I worked as a software engineer for 17 years in a company called Avaya where I worked with some brilliant engineers. I loved the time I spent there and I would encourage people into the industry but I felt that it was time to do something different.
The focus of my research project was the effectiveness of Scratch programming in helping children to develop problem solving skills. Scratch programming is a visual programming language targeted at children and is designed to help children to learn the basics of programming while also providing them with an alternative avenue in which to engage their creative side. I had delivered a number of Scratch programming sessions to primary schools before I started the PME and so it was an area in which I had an interest and also some experience. A tip for any current or prospective PME students would be to pick an area for your thesis in which you have an interest as this is vital to keep you motivated.
I’ve been very fortunate to get a temporary contract with Lisheenkyle National School near Athenry. It’s a fabulous school where STEM is a big emphasis and so my background in technology lends itself well to such a school. I’m hoping to have my probation completed this year and so then its a matter of trying to obtain a more permanent teaching position. I love the energy of the classroom and so I’d hope to get a position as mainstream teacher in a senior class. Looking further ahead I suppose I’d like to get involved in the introduction of technology to classrooms as I can see the benefits that they can bring if introduced for the right reasons.
My main piece of advice would be to try and get some experience of standing in front of a class of children before signing up to the course. There are lots of organisations our there that look for volunteers to come into primary school and to deliver a range of programmes. I volunteered with Science Foundation Ireland and with Junior Achievement Ireland and this gave me the opportunity to gain some classroom experience before I applied for the PME. These organisations also work with second-level schools and so it allowed me to compare the two before making a final decision on what direction I wanted to take.