PGDE Secondary Education - Modern Languages (Spanish)Gemma Graham, UK

Tell us a bit about your background…
My name is Gemma, I’m 27 years old and was born and raised in Glasgow. I completed a BA Hons degree in Spanish with French at the University of Strathclyde. I then went on to work for Cigna, an international health insurance company where I worked as a Bilingual Administrator and Auditor, where I was able to speak Spanish every day! I then went on to work for Hilton Hotels, where I worked in customer service and social media, again using Spanish. I then decided to revisit my life long ambition of teaching, and here I am!

What inspired you to be a teacher?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. I remember being 7 years old and pretending to be a teacher doing the register and correcting jotters with my friends! I always wanted to share the amount of passion I have for languages with as many people as I can.

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were younger?
My favourite teacher was my S3 Spanish teacher. I loved how excited she was about languages and travel, and she passed that excitement on to me. Her lessons were always so engaging and she made grammar learning a lot of fun. 14 years later and we are still in touch!

Why did you choose to study PGDE at the University of Strathclyde?
Having studied at the University of Strathclyde for my undergraduate degree, it was a natural decision to apply to study PGDE here. I had heard amazing things about the course, and I just knew it was going to be a fantastic experience.

During the interview, I met Kandi Higgins, one of the tutors for the languages cohort. Kandi was so helpful and friendly, and her enthusiasm for languages and learning made me realise that Strathclyde was the place to be!

Did you seek any support during the application process?
When applying for the course, I was so pleased to see the online chat option on the website. I had some questions about qualification requirements for the course, and the team were so helpful! The department made the application process so easy and stress free!

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
The highlight of my time at Strathclyde has to be the CCL classes, known as #TuesdayClub by the Modern Languages cohort! These are the classes where we essentially learn how to be language teachers! This is mainly led by Kandi Higgins and Gillian Campbell-Thow, who share their experiences and advice on school-life, as well as language learning techniques and pedagogies. Dr Alan Huang is also on hand to offer classes relating to technology to enhance learning. CCL has enabled the student teachers to build relationships with each other, and we are so lucky to have the tutors who are supportive and true ‘lingo lovers’ - enthusiatic about their subject.

Tell us about your experience on placement…
Placements have been so much fun and full of learning. Both schools that I have spent time in have been so welcoming and supportive, and the experiences have really built my confidence. On placement, we have the opportunity to take classes prepared by ourselves, and it gives us the opportunity to test out techniques and strategies that we learn about in CCL. Apart from the language learning, it is really interesting to get first-hand experience of how schools deal with additional support needs, pastoral care, as well as participating in the extra-curricular activities on offer.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
My advice would be… DO IT! The PGDE course if packed full of interesting lectures and classes, and of course there are a few assignments to be done, as well as placements. It is a full on year, but it is worth every minute. The support at Strathclyde is second to none, and the PGDE course has an excellent reputation.

What do you think of the support available during your course?
The support during my course has been fantastic! My tutors are always available to talk to about any worries or issues we may have on placement or on campus. As well as the tutors, the students are also very supportive of each other. You never feel alone.

What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambition is to become a Modern Languages teacher here in Scotland. I am excited to share my passion and knowledge with future generations. I am also excited to continually learn and keep my language skills up-to-date, with continued professional development.