Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Business and Economics teacher Nicole Newsome about her teaching career.
What interested you in teaching?
I was not the perfect student - I didn’t shine academically or in extracurriculars, and as I got to 6th Year I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I chose to study Business and Equine Studies for my undergrad. I was really passionate about both subjects, but as I matured more and went through the programme, I realised it wasn’t going to be a realistic career for me. That’s when I switched to an Applied Business course and absolutely loved it.
I kept in touch with a lecturer from my first course who was a vet, and he said to me that he thought I’d be amazing as a secondary school teacher. I was like, “Really? I wasn’t a very good student then,” but he really encouraged me to go into teaching. So I took a year out to go travelling and use my undergrad in Equine Studies working for Coolmore Australia, then did my PDE. There weren’t any teaching jobs in Ireland at the time, so I was placed by an agency at a school in Kent. I stayed there for seven years, had some excellent mentors, and really thrived. So even though I hadn’t really planned to become a teacher, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love the craziness; even when I come home and am exhausted at the end of the day, I just love it.
What makes teaching Business and Economics exciting for you?
I wasn’t the most academic in school, but my routine every night was to watch Vincent Browne before bed, so I think I’ve always loved business and economics. I love that when I’m on my way to work in the morning, I hear something on the news that I can bring into the classroom. I try to apply everything in the curriculum to real-life situations. I love evaluating my teaching and learning plans at the end of the year and seeing how I can make them better, I also really enjoy reading about metacognition and working to figure out how I can deliver the material to students in the best way possible. Business and economics give you so many opportunities to really think out of the box and link different activities back to the curriculum, like this week we made origami stars, and students were applying the l quality control managers theory that we covered in the previous class.
Why did you choose to teach at Alex?
After working in Kent, I went to Vietnam for a year and then came back to Ireland to teach. My experience since my teaching practice had been in international curriculums, so it was a bit difficult at first. I was interviewing for positions in two different schools, and so when it came down to it I spoke to a couple of friends about which I should take because I wasn’t very familiar with the schools in the area, and both of them said Alex, absolutely. I love teaching here in Alex; the ethos, the atmosphere and the international students, they’re such a wonderful addition to the classroom. They add so much value and can share about economic policies in their countries or their experiences at home. The community in Alex has been so welcoming and exciting, I’ve absolutely loved it.
How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19? Is there anything you think you’ll continue going forward?
While I enjoy experimenting with technology in my teaching anyways, I really hope it never happens again! It was really difficult teaching to a screen, and I never had a day teaching online where I went “ok, that was a good day.” I was also worried as I couldn't deliver a good level of pastoral care, it was difficult to really connect with students, so I do really hope it never happens again.
What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?
A personal highlight is always when I have a chance to sit down and monitor the progress of students; I love seeing where they started and seeing how far they can come, regardless of final grades. Then every time I do a residential trip with students, I think it’s the highlight of my career. I always think “This has got to be the highlight,” and then I do another one and that becomes the highlight! In the past, I’ve done four completely independent camping trips in a year with 150 students, doing the cooking and cleaning and everything, and absolutely loved it. I’ve also visited Italy and New York with students, and they were amazing as well.
I was also nominated for Kent Teacher of the Year one year, which was lovely. The nomination came from a class that I’d taken through the equivalent of Junior Cycle through to Leaving Cert, and they wrote a lovely piece about me and it was wonderful to be recognised that way. The last, but I think the most important highlight is when I was asked to speak to 17-year-olds who were about to get their driving license. I had a life-changing injury as a result of a car accident, and so I was contacted by the Road Safety Council to speak to students about the level of maturity and consequences that come along with driving. That’s something that’s really close to my heart.