Our graduatesRachel Phillips, PGDE Secondary French & Spanish

Tell us a little bit about your background...
I am from a small town in Helensburgh and attended Hermitage Academy. After leaving school, I studied French and Spanish at the University of Strathclyde. During my time at university, I had the opportunity to take part in a year abroad and spent some time working as an English Language Assistant in a primary school in Grenoble, France. After graduating, I spent a couple of years working in the aviation industry. This provided me with some opportunities to develop my linguistic skills, having spent time working between Geneva and Glasgow Airport. I then decided to apply for the PGDE at Strathclyde and, after a fantastic year, I am now in my probation year at a Glasgow secondary school.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
My own teacher at secondary school was my main inspiration to become a teacher. As I often found modern languages a challenging subject, she dedicated a lot of time providing me with additional support and encouragement during my studies. While this allowed me to succeed in my learning, I also grew to share the same passion for languages and looked to her as a role model. Reflecting upon the impact she had on my life, I wanted to make a difference into the lives of young people.

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were younger?
Yes, my Spanish teacher was my favourite teacher at school. She demonstrated the passion she had for languages, delivering lessons which were fun, engaging and motivating. Most importantly, despite being an excellent languages teacher, she was also a very compassionate and supportive person – someone I could depend on and who I felt truly cared for all the pupils in her classes.

Why did you select the University of Strathclyde to study the PGDE?
I decided to select the University of Strathclyde to study the PGDE because of the reputation of the course and the positive experience I had at university during my time studying for my Honours degree. Once I had my interview and met some of the fantastic tutors, I already felt welcome and knew it was the place for me.   

Do you have any memorable moments from your placement experiences?
I had a lot of memorable moments from my placements. However, the most memorable was despite only having spent 8 weeks at my placement school, an S6 pupil approached me on the last day to give me a Christmas card. Although I had not exclusively taught her in lessons, I had spent some time chatting to her and giving advice on her university application as she also hoped to study languages. The card read ‘Merry Christmas – you’re going to make a great teacher.’ The appreciation of one pupil made me so excited to continue on my teaching journey and one day have classes of my own.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
Completing the PGDE at Strathclyde was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The tutors have an array of knowledge, experience and advice to share with you and ensure that you are fully supported on your teaching journey. At times it can be challenging, but it’s so worth it. 

Tell us a little bit about your teaching career so far...
I have had a very positive start to my teaching career. The experience I gained from my school placements provided me with the knowledge and skills to deliver lessons which are fun, engaging and purposeful, while ensuring that I am providing all pupils with the appropriate amount of support to succeed. I am proud of my achievements to date and look forward to making a difference to the lives of the pupils in my classes.

How have you adapted to working through COVID, and the changes this means for teaching?
As a teacher, every day is a school day - our student group were learning how to adapt to digital learning alongside teachers who have been in the profession for years. It has been a huge learning curve, however, there have been some positive aspects of working through COVID, such as the effectiveness of digital tools in education.

What surprised/delighted you most about the transition from the PGDE programme to holding a full-time teaching role?
I received such a warm welcome from my school and I was surprised at how quickly I settled in and felt part of the community. During the last couple of weeks of the PGDE, I was so nervous that the next time I would be in a classroom I would be on my own. However, all teachers are aware of how daunting the experience of being a newly qualified teacher can be and are always on hand for support and advice.

Any final points or words of wisdom?
Be prepared to work hard and put in 110%. However, being a teacher is the most rewarding thing I have ever done and I would not change it for the world.