Maureen Phelan – Advancing Early Years Teaching with an MA in Early Childhood Studies

Alumni of MA in Early Childhood Studies

Early Years

If you asked Maureen Phelan when she graduated with her degree in Philosophy and English, she might not have predicted owning her own Montessori school. However, that is exactly what she has been doing since 2010 when she opened Mo’s Montessori.

Maureen had, as she describes, ‘a very varied career’. After university, she worked in animation. She worked with top magazines in Ireland such as Hot Press. But a trip to Eastern Europe changed her perspective.

“I was always interested in working with kids. I was in Romania back in 1992, for a couple of months, working in a hospital. I was working directly with small children, and I definitely got more out of that than anything else I was doing. That led me back to doing a Montessori diploma eventually,” she said.

Maureen opened Mo’s Montessori in 2010, a goal that she had held for a long time.

“I always intended to work for myself. I spent two years trying to find premises and establish a small school.

“Eventually I found a place in Baldoyle, in the northside of Dublin. It’s a really nice place, right by the sea. It’s a lovely location.

“They were prefabs and I just had one of them. I started out just me. But then we grew and had another teacher. Then we connected with the next classroom, so we had two classrooms. Eventually, we’ve grown to five teachers including myself. There are 34 children,” she said.

In October 2020, Maureen decided to take the leap back into education with Portobello Institute’s MA in Early Childhood Studies.

There are a number of different reasons our students decide to do the MA. Some see it as a way of elevating their career from the classroom to positions such as the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Pobal, or Tusla.

But for Maureen, the priority has always been the children in her classroom.

“All along, I was wanting to go back and extend my knowledge and understanding. That’s how I came back to do the MA.

“I’m very much embedded in working with the children. I want to make my practice with the children the best that it can be and that really was my go-to reason for doing the MA.

“I wanted to consolidate the information and know what’s happening in the field now and to bring that into my practice with the children.

“I understand why some people want to move away. You get a bit older, and you might want to change into something else. None of that appeals to me. I feel early years need people that have built up their understandings and can bring that to the children and to the classroom. I feel like that’s important too, rather than just moving on and going into something else.

“I know there are lots of important areas but my one is really important. I feel like if I can pass on this information to colleagues and keep it running in the way I feel is best practice, that’s where I’m at. That’s what interests me at the moment. I think it’s so valuable to have the qualification. It helps people to take you seriously,” she said.

Maureen says that her experience at Portobello was an extremely positive one, especially considering the challenging circumstances that she was doing her studies.

“I thought it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. For me, doing it online was very effective as well. I really enjoyed it.

“I liked the sound of the MA course when I read through it. I thought the whole prospectus was really interesting.

“It felt easy to sign up. There weren’t any difficulties. We had so much information to hand that you can go on and read.

“The attitude of the college was great too. It was very much one of trust as well. You’re treated like an adult. You want to do this course and you just get on with it. I liked that aspect.

“The module I enjoyed most was there first one that I did which was the contemporary issues in early childhood. I originally did Philosophy and English in college and that module had a philosophical element to it, so it felt like coming home in a way. I found that I really enjoyed the readings for that. That one was my favourite part of the learning.

“I absolutely would recommend it. The tutors were amazing. Marguerita Magennis was brilliant. She was wonderful. She was very trusting of all the students. She was so informative as well. If you needed something, she could dig deep and give you so much information. But she also had this lovely laid-back feeling that calmed the nerves. That worked for me,” she said.

If you are interested in learning more about the MA in Early Childhood Studies or any of our other degrees and qualifications, you can visit our Early Years & Montessori department page here.

If you are interested in any of our Early Childhood Studies degrees or courses you can book a consultation call with our expert early years advisor Jennifer Matteazzi here, email [email protected] or call 01 892 0031.

Maureen Phelan – Advancing Early Years Teaching with an MA in Early Childhood Studies Maureen Phelan – Advancing Early Years Teaching with an MA in Early Childhood Studies