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Case Study

Mark Wallace

Middlesbrough, UK

PGCE Further Education and Skills (FES)

After realising that his life had come to a crossroads, Mark Wallace decided to change his life for the better and re-enter the world of education as a mature student. He graduated from our PGCE Further Education and Skills course here at Sunderland, and thanks to his placement, has gained some invaluable experience and is now a qualified teacher.

At the age of 42, I realised that I had reached somewhat of a clichéd crossroads. After losing my beloved wife and falling ill myself, I made the decision to change my life with the support of my two daughters after my recovery. I enrolled onto the Access to Higher Education scheme where I gained a distinction, and the rest is history!

Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I felt that as a mature student I needed that extra something to enhance my employability in the competitive work market, so I studied for a master's in Creative Writing at a different university, which is a subject I’m really passionate about. Following on from my master's, I decided a teaching qualification would be the right path for me to take, which is when I applied to the University of Sunderland on the PGCE Further Education and Skills course.

The course at Sunderland enabled me to learn how to teach creative writing, more specifically in Further Education. This meant that I would be able to teach post-16 students who had a real desire to learn creative writing, as opposed to secondary school pupils learning as part of the curriculum. The modules on the course really allowed my skills to flourish and I received steady encouragement from my tutor throughout the course. However, I truly believe that the placement was the defining part of my education as a trainee teacher and set me up for what I do today.

The University arranged a placement for me within the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) department at Darlington College. My mentor there guided me with such compassion and understanding, helping me to find the teacher within myself. I was then offered two options – I could either continue my current placement or transfer with my mentor to Catterick Garrison, teaching the Gurkha regiments from Nepal. I chose the latter and within a few weeks, I was brought into a wonderful community of dedicated teachers, developing my skills and having the time of my life. There were opportunities for cultural trips which were incredibly memorable, as well as parties held in our honour by the Gurkhas, thanking us for all our teaching work.

Before I knew it, I had qualified as a teacher. I finished my PGCE and was immediately given my first wing of Gurkhas the following week. When the placement came to an end, I returned to Darlington College, but I’m awaiting the call back to Catterick for the coming year where I’ll be able to teach once again. I’ve also continued my writing and become part of the BBC writers’ room, sharing my work in collaboration with other writers.

I think it’s sometimes assumed that a university education is only for a certain type of person, but the experience is what you make of it. It is for you, it is for me, it is for anyone who wants to learn, listen, be heard, and live their dream. The last 18 months have been a true privilege and a time of my life I will never forget. To sum it up, although I only invited the University of Sunderland into my home, they invited me into a whole new world.”

Published 25 March 2022

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