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Kelly McAllister

Kelly McAllister Managing Director

Be Inspired Series

Aine Kearney

Curriculum Manager For Essential Skills
Northern Regional College

What does your job entail?
I am Essential Skills curriculum manager for Coleraine, Ballymoney and Magherafelt Campuses within Northern Regional College.  I have responsibility for nine full-time and 11 part-time lecturing staff and I also teach Essential Skills application of number, Essential Skills ICT and GCSE maths.

My role entails resolving day-to-day operational issues such as staffing and timetabling. I work towards achieving agreed targets for student recruitment, retention, satisfaction and achievement/success by monitoring students’ commitment, progress and attendance and take action to raise standards within the essential skills curriculum area. This area also includes Essential Skills communication, GCSE English and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

Is it 9-5?

Most days are not 9-5. We offer evening classes at NRC so each year I usually teach one late evening per week.  Most of my planning, preparation and marking is done in the evenings.

How did you get into this line of work?

Whilst working as an administrator in the Essential Skills department in what was Causeway Institute of Further and Higher Education (now NRC) Ballymoney Campus, I was encouraged by my line manager, Kathleen Mullan, to consider moving into teaching.

Outline your career to date?

After graduating from the University of Ulster, I joined NRC as an administrator in Student Support Services, reception and Essential Skills department in 2004. I took on some part time lecturing in 2006 to give me a taste of what was involved. It was very much an eye opener and inspired me to choose this as a career! 

In 2008 I was appointed full-time lecturer at NRC in Essential Skills. In January 2011 I became temporary operational manager for Essential Skills and was appointed curriculum manager on September 1, this year so I am still on a learning curve.

Tell us about your qualifications/training.

I left Loreto College Coleraine in 1999 with 10 GCSEs and three A-levels, and completed my BA hons business studies with computing at University of Ulster in 2003. Whilst working in my full time administrative role I began the process of retraining.

I completed the Level 4 certificate in teaching and management of Essential Skills and numeracy at Queen’s University, City and Guilds 7407 certificate in further education teaching at NRC and finally the Level 4 Certificate in teaching and PGCE(FE) both at University of Ulster.

What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?

Organisational and people management skills are vital for my job. I need to empower staff to do their job by making the best use of both human and physical resources. Problem solving skills and the ability to think on my feet are required to fulfil the daily operational role. It is vital to be approachable by both colleagues and students.

When teaching it’s important to build students’ confidence in their abilities. With maths I like to make sure it’s full of investigation and active learning with plenty of group work .This helps overcome the well known cry, ‘I can’t do maths!’.

What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your work?

For some people maths is like a foreign language and the challenge in my teaching is to find ways to make it easier to understand maths concepts by finding examples from everyday life. The football premiere league tables with points accumulated and goals scored are ideal for football fans. Planning a holiday is a great project with adult students as it combines maths and IT in researching flights converting currencies and comparing temperatures. 

For me there’s a great sense of achievement when I can see a concept or topic suddenly make sense or ‘click’ with a student. Then I know I’ve made a difference to their confidence with maths and their understanding of maths concepts.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a big sports fan, so the coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics this summer was right up my street. I play football for Ballymoney United Ladies and hockey for Ballymoney Hockey Club in the premier league. This is my 18th season with the club. It is the perfect wind down from work.

I also love travelling and look forward to getting away on holiday at least once or twice year.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I have travelled to six out of the seven continents. Maybe I will make it to Antarctica some day!

Who has inspired you most in your life?

I have met many inspirational people in both my sporting and working life so far. Teachers who are striving to make a difference for every single student. Managers with the foresight and creativity to drive innovation. People from volunteers to top international players who take great pride in their local sporting clubs and work tirelessly to ensure their survival. Dame Mary Peters is truly inspirational and a fantastic role model.

As Maths Week kicks off across Northern Ireland thousands of primary and secondary school pupils will discover the fun of sums through a variety of events including maths games, teasers, challenges and magic shows. The week finishes with Maths in the City on Saturday October 20, when Belfast city centre will buzz with national and internationally renowned mathematicians entertaining the public.

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