Denise Sheridan – Preschool Owner Becomes LINC CPD Programme Tutor with MA Early Childhood Studies
MA in Early Childhood Studies
Early Years & Montessori
Denise graduated from her MA in Early Childhood Studies at Portobello Institute in January 2023 and is now working in the career she wants, taking on a programme lead role as well as running her own pre-school which is an inclusive green school, with a play-based pedagogy, delivered under the framework of Aistear.
Before furthering her studies at Portobello Institute, Denise was developing her own preschool. She chose to study further to develop research in policy-making in the early years sector.
“My career path before deciding to study at Portobello was very much focused on my immediate local environment within the early years sector providing preschool services through an emergent curriculum advocating for children’s choice and voice in their daily decision making.
“Within the early years Policy and Process Sector there was very little inclusion of the evidential practice from the settings, the voice of the child in policy and process and value given to the expertise of the early years educator. To fully represent the child and parental choice in an early years sector I felt compelled to seek out alternative options to influence policy-making representing children and early years educators,” she said.
Denise feels she made the right decision in choosing to study for her MA in Early Childhood Studies at Portobello Institute.
“I chose Portobello because of its accessibility and its focus on professional support for its students. Reading through the student testimonials about supervisor and tutor availability, support and access were all the themes that jumped out at me. The outline of the course materials the availability and independent learning supported through the masters and the virtual access were also deciding factors.
“I followed my passion more than I knew by studying this course. My passion is inclusion for all children and providing access for all. I completed my Ad Dip in Inclusive Education with Queens University, in 2011, and went on to complete the LINC – Leadership for Inclusion Special Award from MIC/UL in 2017 and continued on to the LINC+ CPD program shortly after that.
“My time at Portobello was very enjoyable and supportive. I was surprised that shortly after joining the program Marguerita Magennis, the Master’s Program Lead discussed with me the option of writing a blog, co-presenting at a webinar with Tim Gill and supporting Evaluation Panels of multi-disciplinary degree programs that would follow on as professional development opportunities.
“These were all presented as opportunities and while I was willing to give my time to do these I had not anticipated the support, knowledge and insight that was shared by Marguerita, Pauline Maguire and Denise Flood all the way through.
“And I haven’t even gotten to the subjects yet! The modular layout and materials were very accessible and relevant. I particularly enjoyed the module on foundations of being and its focus on holistic development for children and reflecting now it did influence my thesis subject matter.
“The best thing was the professional development support and many varied opportunities received as a result of engaging with this community of learning,” she said.
Denise is still the owner and manager of her Green School setting but has stepped back from the day-to-day operations and handed that over to her ‘capable and dedicated ECCE Room Leader’ in order to pursue new opportunities that have arisen as a result of her studies and career progression.
“I am now also the LINC+ CPD Program lead in MIC delivering virtual Continuous Professional Development Tuition, Tutor-led Community of Practice support and content design and delivery for LINC Graduates with MIC, Limerick.
“The aim of the CPD Programme is to deliver regular professional support and development in the areas of Inclusive Culture Practice and Pedagogy and communities of practice for LINC Graduates. By so doing adding value for all children and their families in support of First 5. The program is fully funded by the DCEDIY,” she said.
Denise is also now a successfully published author on the subject matter from her Master’s and continues to focus on action research within the early years sector.
You can read her published work here.
Gaining her MA in Early Childhood Studies has been a major turning point in Denise’s career in early years.
“Through my participation in the Master’s programme at Portobello Institute, I learnt many academic skills and increased my academic knowledge. More significant for me and my continued professional journey were the many other skills I developed during this time from virtual team engagement, involvement in virtual communities of practice, virtual student engagement, use of professional language to elevate the sector as well as introducing the language of STEAM into my own setting, participation on evaluation boards, presentation and academic writing skills all of which have supported my career progression,” she said.
She describes what her working life looks like now.
“From a LINC+ CPD Program perspective I manage daily student queries, mentor students through inclusive practice, culture and pedagogy, support student engagement, interact with wider academic teams and development teams and continue research on the student and child’s voice.
“From a program perspective, I deliver information webinars, lead communities of practice and am currently beginning content development for a new CPD package.
“I have always wanted to add value and recognition to the voice of the child and the role of the early years teacher and that is the role I am now in.
“I feel I am successful in my role now as I have the confidence in and acknowledge my own expertise as a result of my journey through the master’s program and the multiple professional developmental opportunities I received through my participation in it,” she said.