Samantha Cooney

Early Years

Special Needs Assisting

Position: SNA lecturer

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

About Samantha 

I have worked in the education sector for over 14 years. This includes the early year’s sector, special education sector, special needs assisting, primary teaching, further education, and higher education. My personal drive comes from experiencing educational and childhood disadvantage throughout my life, eventually leaving secondary school.

My journey began with further education in Cork College of Commerce where I studied Child Care and Education. From there, I completed a BA (Hons) Level 8 Degree in Early Years and Childhood Studies in University College Cork, receiving First Class Honours, and the Graduate of the Year Award. During this time, I received a Bene Merenti Award, College Scholar Titles, and the Peel Memorial Award for Academic Excellence, as well as other awards and titles. I continued my education journey in UCC, achieving a First Class Honours MA Level 9 in Sociology and then with Hibernia College receiving a First Class Honours PME Level 9 in Primary Teaching.

My experience and my philosophy are one in the same, potential is not measured in numbers, exams, or points. My personal circumstances prevented me from engaging with my potential during my school days. However, further education gave me the pathway I deserved, but could not access. This is the approach we take at Portobello Institute, and this is the philosophy through which I teach.

Over the past 14 years, I have developed a keen interest in special education, having worked as an SNA, intervention tutor, and home tutor for many years. I began working at Portobello Institute and other academic colleges teaching on SNA courses, Child Development courses and so. For the past number of years, I have worked in the Early Years Department as a lecturer on the BA Early Childhood Studies in collaboration with London Metropolitan University. I have also been heavily involved in the development of, and teaching of, the BA Inclusive Education Practice in collaboration with the University of Essex. This project continues to be a labour of love for me, as I am passionate about special education and need for evidence-based practice and teaching.

The culmination of my own personal experiences, training, and professional life has led to a strong commitment to trauma-informed teaching and care. This is my focal research interest along with educational disadvantage and cultural diversity in education. I am regular contributor to the college blog as well as participating in professional research endeavours. In addition to this, I am a research supervisor.

Samantha’s Teaching Philosophy 

As an educator, pedagogist, and sociologist, I firmly believe that we have a collective responsibility as people that care about the welfare, education, and development of children, to continuously reflect on and review our practice. Life-long learning is essential and evidence-based practices are a must. However, the primary goal of working for the dignity, respect, and autonomy of all children is to cultivate healthy and authentic relationships built on trust, kindness, and mutual respect. This forms the basis of my work with and for children, and it is the lens through which I engage with the world personally and professionally.


  • First Class Honours BA Level 8 Degree in Early Years and Childhood Studies
  • First Class Honours MA Level 9 Degree in Sociology
  • First Class Honours PME Level 9 Degree in Primary Education

Research Areas

  • Cultural Hybridity
  • Collaborative Learning Strategies

Industry Roles

  • Advocacy Roles
  • Early Intervention
  • Special Needs Assisting
  • Primary Teaching
  • Lecturing

Find Samantha Online


Samantha Cooney Samantha Cooney