A VERY Happy 20th Birthday to my Career!

As we enter the new month and academic term I am celebrating something very special……….20 years of working in Education!

20 years ago, I finally fulfilled my dream of becoming a teacher, something I had always wanted to be, but hadn’t taken the easy route to reaching!

After graduating with a degree in psychology I drifted into well paid, but soul-destroying jobs which left me feeling completely unfulfilled. The tragic loss of a friend just before his 30th birthday made me re-think what I was doing with my life, and one evening during a discussion with a friend I explained how unhappy I was with work, and how I dreaded Monday mornings and another week at at the office, “What is it that you really want to do?” my friend asked me, “Teach!!” I said, but I knew I didn’t want to work in any “normal” school!

A friend of a friend worked in the Supported Learning Department of Kingston College and managed to get me a tutoring position, and at the same time I started doing my City and Guilds Teaching Cert (You can always tell how long people have been in Further Ed if they have heard of the City and Guilds 7307!)

As soon as I stepped into that classroom 20 years ago I knew that I had finally started doing what I had been born to do! I loved my job, loved the students, and looked forward to going to work every day! Although we had a real mix of students and needs, I also knew very quickly that the students I enjoyed working with the most were the autistic ones. (As a teacher you are not meant to have favourites – but I did!!)

After I had my second son I went back to working in a different college and did my PGCE. It was bloody hard work juggling 2 small children, working and studying. I would often be up until midnight working, but it always felt worth it.

After I had completed my PGCE I opened an email that was sent to all the tutors at my college which changed my life. The college had received funding for various “Champions” across the Surrey College Network, and one of the positions was for an “Autism Champion.” I knew that I HAD to get this position and was over the moon when I successful in my bid! I LOVED this role and working closely with autistic learners across the college cemented what it was I really wanted to do. I did my Post-Grad in Autism, again juggling working with studying, 2 small children and then becoming a single parent.

Unfortunately, despite the success of this role, eventually the funding ceased and the Autism Champion Role ceased with it, so I then became Assistant Head and the Head Teacher at a specialist school for autistic children. Although I loved the children at my school, I found being a Head Teacher incredibly hard – mostly because I wasn’t teaching, and I found managing staff so hard!! My students once told me I was “too nice to be a Head Teacher!”

After 3 years in this school (and one complete disaster which I will save for another day!) I left the school and set up PAST. Working in the school highlighted to me the complete lack of support for autistic children, their parents, and families, and I knew I had to do something about this. I also felt that there was a lack of decent training for staff working with mainstream autistic students and started to write my own accredited training.

Over the years, PAST has gone from strength to strength. I have met some amazing people along my journey and am honoured to work with incredible people I am proud to call my friends. PAST is made up of the most brilliant and dedicated team, and we all have the same goal. 5 years ago I set up Healthy Happy Me, and three years ago KITE was born and is flying high!

In my 20 Years in education I have probably taught and worked with thousands of autistic children and teenagers. I hope they have all learned something from me, because they have all taught me everything I know that is of importance about autism, PDA, ADHD, anxiety, and neuro-diverisity– and for that I will always be so grateful.

To celebrate my 20 years I am offering 20% off all my courses and webinars on my website – just use the code 20BIRTHDAY - and thank you all for your amazing support.

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