General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Outstanding OU graduate recognised with GTCNI Award


Ballymena-based Open University graduate, Emma Culbert, has been chosen to receive an esteemed Student Teacher Award for the most outstanding student of the year. Emma completed the University’s Professional Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) last year – a qualification which enables graduates to enter the world of education as fully-accredited teachers – and Emma received her award at the OU’s graduation ceremony at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Saturday (May 16).

“I had no idea I’d been nominated for the Student Teacher Award,” says Emma. ”I knew my course was going well, but was just really pleased to complete it – this award is an added bonus, a very nice added bonus.” “Studying for a PGCE has been hard work but rewarding,” she continues. “I always wanted to be a teacher, and being able to study while working full time has enabled me to get a qualification which has opened the door for me to do this. I thought distance-learning would be a lonely experience, but actually the reality has been very different. The OU is with you every step of the way and my tutor was very helpful.”

Since completing her PGCE, Emma has gone straight into the classroom, “I’m currently working as a temporary teacher which is giving me great variety of experience and allowing me to develop my skills further while working with pupils of all abilities. I’m really enjoying the challenges and experiences.”

Brian Ogden, Emma’s Open University tutor, says, “Emma was an outstanding student - a view echoed in both schools in which she undertook her placements. She is particularly gifted in creating her own resources - in any medium - and was able to share and leave these with her host schools. She is also a talented musician and teacher of pianoforte and her ability to accompany choirs, groups or individuals meant a great deal again in both schools. She has a lovely disposition, learned firmness with fairness and did a great job teaching pupils.”

The Student Teacher Award was developed by the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) as an annual award which includes a financial prize of £1000. It recognises students that have excelled on teacher courses based on the grades achieved and the contribution made by the student during their work placements in schools.

 “We are delighted to make this award to Emma Culbert in recognition of her achievement during her PGCE year with the Open University,” says Sally McKee, GTCNI Chair. “The General Teaching Council makes these awards annually in keeping with its aims to promote the highest standards of professional practice among teachers”.

The PGCE is the most frequent route into a teaching career at secondary education level. The Open University’s PGCE is fully-accredited and – unlike the traditional full-time PGCE – offers students the flexibility to fit their learning around their life and work. Students are provided with one-to-one support by their personal OU tutor and, by the end of the course, have the knowledge skills and practical experience needed for a rewarding and successful teaching career.


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