Early Years & Montessori
Position: College Director
“I believe in the power of education. I have seen students blossom from timid and insecure individuals into confident graduates as a result of their journey through our programmes. I always tell students ‘you can’ and that nothing is impossible in life if you try hard enough. Every learning journey is different, and success looks different to everyone. We support our students to be the very best that they can be and to strive towards that career goal.”
My career has been very varied. I completed a science degree and then was accepted into An Garda Síochána. I spent my time in Ballymun and in the Drug Unit in Santry. I gained many skills in An Garda Síochána and met some wonderful people throughout my time.
Working with underprivileged children and families became my passion having spent time with some very vulnerable families in the district and family courts in Dublin.
I was accepted into a master’s degree in child protection and welfare at Trinity College Dublin where I focused my research interest on investigating child sexual abuse cases.
I decided after the birth of my first child to take a career break and while on this career break, I completed a Montessori Teaching Diploma and other early years programmes.
I thoroughly enjoyed working within the early years sector and the potential to capture and support vulnerable children and families there. I opened my own Montessori school and a short time afterwards was invited by Portobello Institute to teach on their early year’s programmes at night.
I worked as a tutor for many years and then as a programme manager in the early years before being promoted to Academic Director and then College Director over seven years ago.
I completed another master’s degree in working with children and families in the early years in 2012 and have continued teaching on our degree programme for my entire time with the Institute.
I am entering my 17th year with the Institute and have seen many changes during my time working here.
My role in Portobello is to ensure learners are given every opportunity to succeed in our programmes. I believe our team is full of people who are passionate about education. They want their students to succeed and be the very best that they can be.
We seek opportunities for our students when they finish their programmes and we stay in touch with them when their programme ends. I love nothing more than a student coming back to tell me where their qualification has taken them.
Amazing Things Denise Has Done
One of the proudest days of my life was last year when my 15-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter travelled to Belarus and India with me to work on our Dochas Leanai orphanage teaching programmes.
I started travelling to Belarus 14 years ago with a team of staff from Portobello Institute and have continued to travel once or twice a year to Belarus and India to support the orphanage staff and children there.
Many students and tutors from the college have travelled with me and have had wonderful experiences. This gives me great pride in human beings’ capacity for kindness and to give back when our lives are so privileged.
I was also very proud of a young man that I met as a child in an orphanage in Belarus when he was about 9 years old.
We offered him a scholarship to do a programme with Portobello which he did extremely well on, and he has been offered another scholarship with another Dublin college to complete a Degree and Master’s with them.
We have given this young man an opportunity to not only be accepted and loved in Ireland but to also use education as a tool for a better life for himself.
Denise’s Philosophy About Education
I believe that every learner’s ability and journey is their own. I tell learners on day one to concentrate on their own journey and not worry about anyone else’s.
Everything is possible when you believe you can do it; we help them to believe. We want our students to succeed. We have very clear entry criteria so we match learners to the right programmes.
I had a lovely older student one year who had extreme anxiety and self-esteem problems. On speaking to her after class the first night I discovered she had dyslexia and had never had it assessed properly.
I promised her she could complete this programme successfully and that I would do all I could to support her getting there. She not only completed that programme, but she gained student of the year that year. She went on to open her own Montessori school and takes our students every year in work experience.
Our programme changed her life, and her perception of herself and her children’s lives because they could see that she had conquered so much in her life and was a successful businesswoman.
- Applied Chemistry Degree
- Degree in Business Administration
- Degree in policing studies
- Montessori Diploma (all other ECCE courses up to Degree in EY)
- Master’s Degree in Integrated work with Children and Families in the Early Years