NEC Course Co-ordinator Stephanie
Meet NEC Course Co-ordinator Stephanie, who looks after learners enrolled on our Early Years and Childcare, Supporting Teaching and Learning, and most recently Business and Management courses. Next week, it will be exactly one year since she first joined the team. This week, we’re reflecting on her experiences and giving you an insight into how she helps with the day to day operations that ensure NEC learners are supported during their studies.
In many ways, and for a number of years, Stephanie’s life has revolved around education. For five years she taught ESL (English as a Second or Foreign Language) in France to primary schools and in private classes, teaching both children and adults. After returning to the UK she started volunteering in her local school and then spent five years as a teaching assistant in a primary school. She later became a tutor of adults taking evening classes in Spanish.
Stephanie has also been on the other side of the fence during those years: as well as helping to support other students’ learning, she was also a student herself. When she returned to the UK she enrolled on a distance learning degree in French and Spanish with the Open University, and when she wasn’t tutoring adults or supporting pupils in schools she busied herself in her studies at home.
As if that wasn’t enough to fit into one day, she was also bringing up two teenage children at the same time. So how did she manage to juggle such a busy life?
‘The good thing about distance learning is that it’s very flexible,’ explains Stephanie. ‘Like being able to press pause and play on something. When studying at home, I could put it down quickly if I needed to do something else and come back to it when that was taken care of. I could go out to work and know I’d be able to get back to studying whenever I came home, without needing to rush off to classes that started at a set time.’
When her children grew older, Stephanie felt ready to commit to working full time. She knew she wanted to continue working in education, but unlike her previous roles she wanted something year-round that wouldn’t limit her to only being able to support learners during academic term times. She had known about NEC while living in France, and having been a distance learning student herself, the idea of helping others in circumstances she could relate to appealed to her. So she applied for a job.
‘When I found out I’d been accepted I was really excited about getting started,’ she says. ‘I hoped my experiences as both a tutor and a distance learning student would provide me with some insight into how I could better support NEC learners.’
Since she started, Stephanie has seen many of the learners she supports complete their courses. There’s always plenty for her to do and she works hard to make sure their studies go as smoothly as possible.
‘There are a lot of things we need to do to ensure the learner has every opportunity to succeed. For example, some of our Childcare and Early Years courses involve an assessment where the learner is observed working with the children in their workplace setting. This needs to be planned in advance and coordinated with both the tutor and the learner in their setting, taking into account things like upcoming school holidays when an assessment couldn’t take place. We also have some international learners, which adds an interesting element to the planning stage!’
‘Then there are things like making sure they’ve chosen their option units, checking their progress, registering them with the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education (CACHE) or the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), and ordering certificates to be sent out once they’ve completed their course and gained their qualification.’ She smiles involuntarily when she mentions the certificates. ‘That’s always the best part,’ she explains.
‘Our learners often have to work especially hard to complete their courses. Many of them chose distance learning in the first place because their circumstances make it difficult to study any other way. Knowing what they’ve had to struggle through makes seeing them succeed all the more inspiring.’ Her smile widens. ‘There’s just something indescribably wonderful about witnessing that achievement.’
Stephanie’s own experiences as a distance learning student have meant the learning journeys of those she supports resonate particularly strongly with her. ‘I know what it’s like, and I also know that it’s possible to succeed, so I want to help them get there. To take that same journey and to have those same opportunities as I did. They’re trying to do something positive for their future and I want to support them.’
‘I also know that life happens and sometimes it can get in the way of studying, so part of what I do is to be here when learners get back from unplanned breaks and reassure them that it’s not too late to pick things up again. It’s not like a timetabled course where they might have missed lots of classes and need to catch up. They can just restart where they left off.’
‘Everyone studies at their own pace. Every learner’s journey is a little bit different. We have people from all walks of life studying with us and we’ve seen everything from new babies to moves abroad occur during the course of someone’s studies. Each of their stories is unique. It’s part of what I love about being here.’