Never too late for a change of career

EMBARKING on a new career is something many of us think about daily, but in reality few of us are brave enough to actually make it happen.
But not everyone is afraid of change: Strabane man Steafan Deery was astute enough to realise that at 35-years-old a secure future for him and his family would mean going back to the books.
With a sports studies degree from Ulster University, Jordanstown and a masters in sports and exercise psychology Steafan knows everything there is to know about sport. For the last decade he has worked as a PE specialist with the Irish Football Association, visiting schools around the Strabane district. However in recent years the scheme has come under severe financial pressure due to budget cuts at Stormont and Steafan was put on redundancy notice twice.
With a young family to support he knew this role was no longer sustainable, “I realised I didn’t want to keep looking over my shoulder, I needed a more stable job.
“That’s when I started looking at going back to university to do a PGCE. I had often thought about it, but kept putting it off.”
With three children, the youngest of which was only born last July, the timing for Steafan’s return to college was not ideal.
“I started my course in September and my wife Ciara, a teacher in St Catherine’s PS, was still off on maternity leave. However with the support of my mum and Ciara’s mum and our wider family we have been able to make it work. But it is difficult being away all week.
“Initially I looked at studying in Coleraine, but they only have a very limited number of PGCE places, so then I had to start looking at England. I’m currently at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster and they have been really supportive with trying to arrange my time-table to allow me to fly in on Monday mornings and finish up earlier on a Friday. I try to get back every weekend to see my wife and kids. And I’m still playing with St Eugene’s GAA club in Castlederg, with the league just starting they have been very supportive.”
Despite the backing of his family returning to student life has been challenging. “I’m back in halls so that has been difficult, especially after being used to the comforts of home,” explained Steafan.
“But there are things you can do to make it easier. Like I made a decision I wouldn’t bring my laptop over to the Lancaster so this forces me to get out of the halls and go and use the uni library. I also met another man from home Caolan Harvey, he’s doing a PGCE there and we have been helping each other out and going to the gym together and that, it’s good to have like-minded people to support you. There is also quite a large number of Irish students there.”
Steafan also found that his previous experience on the sports field allowed him to bring a new way of thinking into the classroom – or even the playground. “During one of my inspections I was using sport to teach the children about division in the maths class. I took them out to the playground and we divided up items in a sports setting, so when we came back into the classroom the children were very comfortable to use the skill set they had just learned. The inspector said he was impressed with my creative approach to lessons.”
Keen to encourage others to take that leap of faith Steafan explained, “It’s never too late to have a career change. There’s no denying it’s difficult, but I’m just thinking about it as a short-term struggle for a long-term gain. And with lots of jobs disappearing locally there are loads of people here in a similar position to me.”
Clearly born to work with young people, Steafan is adamant “teaching is the best profession in the world”.
Now on the home straight to his graduation he is very much looking forward to securing a place in a local school.
“It is so rewarding working with children, I’ve found they help keep you young and energised, no two days are ever the same. If you have any desire to be a teacher, I would say just go for it, regardless of your age,” he added.

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