How I returned to uni and overcame illness to train as a Teacher of the Deaf

Kim Shepherd - PGDip Deaf Education - University of ManchesterKim is a part-time student on the PGDip Deaf Education course at Manchester. Here, she tells us about how she dealt with returning to education after 20 years of working in primary education – and how she overcame a serious illness partway through the course to continue with her studies…

Choosing deaf education

I had worked in primary education for over 20 years in a variety of roles, and was looking for a career change that would enable me to continue teaching and equip me with new skills at the same time.

When a friend suggested that I train to become a Teacher of the Deaf, the idea really appealed to me, so I went to the open day at Manchester to find out more. A whole new area of education was suddenly revealed to me – and I haven’t looked back since.

Back to uni

I decided to take the part-time, on-campus route, knowing that I would learn better in a classroom than via distance learning, and started the PGDip in Deaf Education in September 2013, thinking that I would be qualified by June 2015.

It was daunting to go back to university after a gap of almost 30 years, but in my first cohort I met other teachers who were in a similar situation, which gave us some common ground. Within that group, lasting friendships were formed as we supported each other through audiology and assignments, phonetics, policy and practice and the rest.

Learning about deaf education was like an awakening for me – I began to view everything I knew about language learning through the prism of hearing loss and realised that I wanted to refocus my skills and work with this exceptional group of children.

My first placement in a hearing impaired resource base within a primary school gave me the opportunity to find out if this was the right career for me. It was.

Overcoming adversity

Halfway through the course, everything changed. I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour, which required urgent surgery. But doctors reassured me that it could be removed and that I would make a complete recovery, probably within six to eight weeks.

It was at this time and in the following year that the course leaders came into their own. Rather than having to give up, I was reassured that I could take an ‘interruption’ and return when I was better.

If it hadn’t been for the concern shown for my situation and the flexible arrangements that were made for me after surgery, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my training.

As it turned out, I was very ill for over a year, which meant that I wasn’t able to return to the course until September 2015. But I did go back, and became part of student cohort number 2, who were equally understanding and supportive. The University granted me an extension to my studies so that I could finish all my coursework and my second teaching placement.

Realising a dream

It has all been worthwhile. I will graduate this summer (only two years late!) and in January I was offered a dream job, working part time as a teacher of the deaf at the school where I did my first placement.

There is always something to learn when you are teaching deaf children. It is a job that keeps you on your toes. I am always trying to think of new, better or different ways to engage and involve the pupils I teach, and championing their cause.

For me, completing the course was a marathon, not a sprint, but I got there in the end.

If you think our MSc/PGDip course in Deaf Education could be for you, learn more by visiting the course page.

Find out more about the support available to students at Manchester.

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