When did you attend West Lakes Academy?
I was part of the first year 11 group at West Lakes Academy, the class of 2009. I finished my 6th form studies at the academy in 2012.
What is your favourite memory of your time at West Lakes Academy?
My favourite memory of the academy comes in two halves. The first half was the final day in the ‘old’ Wyndham buildings; there was something quite poignant about being part of the last cohort to ever be educated on a site that had stood for years. The second half was the first day in the new building. It was, and still is, absolutely beautiful to me. I think it far surpassed any of the students’ expectations; however on that first day it was definitely a multi-million pound labyrinth!
What have you achieved since leaving WLA and what are you currently working on?
So technically I’ve never left WLA! When my studies were drawing to a close, I had the audacity to ask Mrs Ray for a job as a learning support assistant. I’d volunteered within the department for some time and I wasn’t ready to make the leap to higher education. So I took it upon myself to research apprenticeships in the local area, I found funding that was available for taking apprenticeships, I had meetings with the local college to see if the school would be a viable option for an apprenticeship; then I presented my findings to Mrs. Ray and I’ve never looked back since. I’m also currently a ‘full time’ student with UCLAN, hoping to work and study my way to a degree in Education and Professional Studies.
How did your time at WLA prepare you for this?
Initially I’d left to study my A Levels elsewhere, which didn’t go as planned. I was lucky that WLA took me back and helped me to deal with the issues that surround failure. I think one thing WLA has definitely given me is confidence. During my time at the academy I was never told I couldn’t do something. I love drama and the arts and was fortunate to be involved with productions such as Joseph and Grease. I was also part of the Rock Challenge piece that achieved first place at two different finals in 2012. I also did a lot of volunteering in my free time, I think this helped me to further my people skills, but at the same time it gave me a critical insight into lessons and the ‘behind the scenes’ of teaching. Both the performing arts and health and social care departments helped me with my time management and organisation issues. If it wasn’t for their knowledge and determination, I wouldn’t have the skills that I use in my day-to-day life.
What advice would you give to the students of WLA who want to pursue a similar career?
Research and experience! I’ve always known that I wanted to work with children in an education environment. It wasn’t until I started volunteering that I realised I had a huge passion for Special Educational Needs. I researched into the qualifications I’d need to one day be a teacher of special needs or a SENCO and then I thought of the multitude of ways to achieve this goal.
I also think it’s important to ask for help. If you want to become a teacher or work within a school then you’re incredibly lucky; you’re already surrounded by people who do work at a school! Ask them about their experience and their routes into teaching. In my experience I’ve found that most teachers are more than happy for you to come and watch them teach or volunteer in their lessons. It’s all about having that initial conversation and asking somebody to help you.
Any other words of wisdom for our students on how to make the most of their time at WLA?
Take risks and have fun. I’d never danced properly in my life, yet the majority of work that I did in performing arts was dance based, because I enjoyed it! If I’d decided that health and social care was a girl’s lesson, then I wouldn’t have found this wonderfully broad and diverse subject that covers almost everything. The opportunities that West Lakes Academy offer are almost limitless, you need to get involved. Take that risk; you never know until you try!