PGDE Secondary Education - Religious Moral EducationManuel Lechthaler, Italy

Tell us a bit about your background...
I was born in South Tyrol, a trilingual province in northern Italy close to the borders of Austria and Switzerland. After high school, I went to Austria where I pursued a Masters in philosophy at the University of Salzburg. I then returned to Italy to work as a teacher of philosophy, history and religious education. In 2013, I moved to New Zealand to pursue a PhD in philosophy. After receiving my doctorate and working as a researcher in the United States, I decided to return to Europe and to become a professional teacher.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
Although I was helping my younger cousin and friends with their homework already when I went to primary school, I did not consider teaching as a career shortly before graduating from high school. From then on, I regularly played with the idea of becoming a teacher and always enjoyed it when I had the opportunity to teach. My passion for teaching comes from my love to share my curiosity to explore philosophical, moral and religious questions with others. Moreover, I believe that educating children and young people is a very important and meaningful activity. It gives you the opportunity to inspire and shape the minds of the next generation and to work in a profession where every day is different and exciting. Finally, I just find it very rewarding to see how children develop their critical thinking skills and engage with some of the central issues from philosophy and religion. 

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were growing up?
There were a couple of teachers I liked and who had a lasting impact on me. However, my favourite teacher was definitely my philosophy teacher at high school. He genuinely cared for his pupils and had the amazing ability to explain very complex concepts and questions in an easy and understandable way. I remember that when some of us had difficulties understanding something, he was able to explain it in two or three different ways to help us to follow the lesson. I think he is a great example of an inspiring and caring teacher. He might well be the reason that I chose to study philosophy and to pursue a career in teaching.

Why did you select the University of Strathclyde?
I chose the PGDE programme at the University of Strathclyde because I heard and read a lot of good things about it and its reputation impressed me. I also liked the structure and the content of the PGDE course. At the interview, I then realised that Strathclyde will be the right match for me. My tutor helped me to understand that I will receive the support I need and that he will be watching out for his student teachers.

Did you seek any support during the application process?
I got in touch with the admissions team a couple of times during the application process. They were always very helpful and so patient when I called them.

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde so far?
The whole experience of the PGDE is amazing. The highlight is definitely the placement, but the time on campus is great as well. I am lucky to have a great group of classmates in my RME course. In the relatively short time we have spent with each other, our group has become a source of support and advice for us all and everybody is watching out for each other.

Tell us about your experience on placement...
The placement is the absolute highlight of the course. During the first few weeks on campus, I got more and more excited to start the placement and teaching. Although I had been teaching before, I could hardly wait for my first day at school and to teach my first lesson. My mentor and the teachers at the school were very helpful and their doors were always open if I had some questions or needed help. Although the placement was quite a busy time, I enjoyed the time there and found it extremely rewarding to be able to engage with the children and my colleagues at school. Overall, it was a fantastic experience.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
Strathclyde offers a very strong PGDE programme with an excellent reputation. If you enjoy to engage with children and young adults and to challenge them to widen their horizon, I would suggest to join the programme.

Have you had to overcome any challenges in your time here?
Of course, every new experience comes with its own challenges. For me, getting the work-life balance right during the placement or the commute between Edinburgh and Glasgow are some of them. However, my passion and commitment to this career path motivates me every day to continue.

What do you think of the support available?
The support you get during your PGDE at Strathclyde is great. In my experience, tutors from the university respond to emails in a very timely manner, can be contacted by phone or even call you back on your mobile.

What are your ambitions for the future?
The next step is to qualify and to register as a teacher. I hope I will then be able to teach in a school with a good ethos, inspiring colleagues and curious pupils. My aim is to transfer my love for philosophy and religious studies to the pupils in my classroom. I was always privileged to have amazing mentors during my life and I would like to do my duty by returning the favour and being a great mentor for others.