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Celebrating our Education graduates: Naziya's story

Posted by. Brett Arnall
Posted on 12 November 2015

blogs:Alumni, blogs:Childhood and Education

Naziya O'Reilley

Throughout November, we're sharing and celebrating the successes of ​​​our PGCE Secondary​ and MA Education​ alumni. Leeds Trinity University has a long-standing reputation for excellence in teacher training, and we're extremely proud of the impact our graduate teachers are making in their teaching careers. 

Today, we're sharing Naziya O'Reilley's story. Naziya has been a primary school teacher since 2006 and has a BA in English and an MA in Education. After completing her MA in Education at Leeds Trinity in 2014, Naziya was awarded a studentship from Leeds Trinity University for a PhD in the Philosophy of Education. Her PhD draws on the ideas of continental philosophers to explore behaviour policy and practice in schools and, in particular, notions of restorative practice and the ethics of interaction and encounter through dialogue.

Leeds Trinity University's Alumni Relations Officer, Brett Arnall, recently caught up with Naziya to find out more about her PhD, her career highlights so far and her aspirations for the future.

Can you tell us a little more about your route into teaching?
Growing up, I loved school and have very fond memories of my time at Wirral Grammar School.  I was fortunate to have excellent teachers and at the age of sixteen, I was really enthusiastic about becoming one myself, but my teachers told me it was a difficult profession and I should try something else.

After studying English at York University, I actually began a career in the restaurant trade.  However, at 24 I was at a crossroads, weighing up whether to pursue this path or return to education. To help me decide, I sought out voluntary experience at Tadcaster Primary School. Being told that I had the potential to be really good was a huge confidence boost. I was successful in my application for a PGCE at York St John University and my first teaching position came at Seacroft Grange Primary School in Leeds. I worked there from 2006 to 2014, becoming a Leading Teacher for Education Leeds and progressing from Classroom Teacher to Assertive Mentoring Policy Leader for the Senior Leadership Team.  

What made you choose Leeds Trinity?
In 2009, I found a Leeds Trinity University leaflet advertising the MA in Education in the staff room. At that point, I had started thinking about my professional development – did I want to continue as Leading Teacher, start my leadership training, or was there a different path I could take? I came to the Open Day and liked the sound of the modules, particularly the ones on coaching and mentoring and behaviour management. I found that I could tailor the MA to my classroom needs and interests. I found that Leeds Trinity's MA best represented how I could become an outstanding educator and that was by dedicating my professional and personal time to academic research.

The personalisation offered by Leeds Trinity was different to other MAs available since it meant I could focus my research on areas of teaching and learning specific to my situation. It was an easy choice for me and definitely the right one.  Essentially, the MA in Education was a route to become the teacher I really wanted to be.

What have been the highlights of your Leeds Trinity experience so far?
I really enjoyed Graduation in 2014. It was a special day as I had just found out I'd been awarded the PhD studentship. so I was moving from one milestone to the next.

I'd also have to remark on how friendly and approachable the academic staff are. They understand that teachers are busy people and, as such, are willing to schedule tutorials and seminars that are convenient for us. I've had to spend a long time in the library and the staff are always ready to help you find the right book or journal article.

Another highlight of my time here has been the chance to meet other teachers at various stages in their careers, sharing experiences, best practice and working together on group presentations. I've appreciated the chance to become part of a great community and getting to know the academic interests of the lecturers in education. They've been invaluable in my ability to utilise the expert knowledge I've received here. MA in Education students also have the opportunity to present their research at Leeds Trinity staff research days.

At the moment, I'm involved with the Critical Thinking Skills Programme. This involves presentations to Level 4 undergraduate students about ethical issues and debates as well as hosting seminars on the behavioural policy of students in education.

How would you summarise your experience at Leeds Trinity?
If I had to summarise my Leeds Trinity experience, it would be life-changing, supportive and inspiring. 

During the MA, I became quite ill over the 2010-11 academic year and underwent two operations.  As my MA centred on empirical research in the classroom, this became increasingly difficult to undertake. I seriously considered abandoning my studies. However, the MA programme manager, Dr Amanda Fulford, helped me to see that I could change the focus of my MA by tailoring it towards a philosophical project.  Without her intervention and continued support, I would have found this very difficult.  Funnily enough, my PhD is now in the Philosophy in Education and Dr Fulford is my supervisor, so the way everything changed, truly was life-changing.

I studied the MA in order to become a better teacher and I'm still here doing a PhD because that goal never really finishes. I'm grateful that Leeds Trinity has given me a place to explore how I can make a lasting difference in education.

What advice would you give to Newly Qualified Teachers about to embark on their teaching careers?
My first advice would be to think about doing the MA, even if not straight away.  The skills and educational experience you will learn and take away from this course will enable you to become a better you, not just a better teacher.

And finally, what would be your dream role?
Both teaching and research are just different faces of the same coin. I'd love to continue my work in a post-doctoral research position and by continuing to work with educators in initial teacher or post graduate education studies.

​Inspired by Naziya's story? Find out about studying your MA in Education at Leeds Trinity ​