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The oustanding Achievements of a Former Pupil: Megan's Journey

2nd December 2020

This is the first in a series of articles we are publishing on the achievements of former students. Megan's journey, outlined below provides an insight into the ambition, drive and hard work that goes into achieving your goals.

My name is Megan Maguire, I am a past pupil of Castlepollard Community College. My journey started in 2010 when I began first year of secondary school. I was twelve years old when I walked through the doors of CCC. My tutor was Lorraine Mimnagh, she welcomed us with kind eyes and a warming heart and told us that she was going to be our tutor and support system along with other teachers throughout our journey at secondary school.

When I first started at Castlepollard Community College there was only thirteen students in our class. Having smaller sized classes worked really well and at our advantage as we got to create strong bonds with our class mates and also with our teachers. The advantage of smaller class sizes gave the teachers more time to help each of our own needs but also created a calm learning environment. The teachers were always there to support us and push us to the best of our ability. There was a real sense of community in the school, other year groups mixed with each other and we wore always encouraged to try our best and to try go that extra mile in all aspects of our subjects. We wore always encouraged to ask if we don’t know, and this is something that I carried with me through college life. There was always support around us for our educational needs but also as individuals. Ms Coyle was my principal at the time, she was always there to give encouragement alongside the teachers and give support to all students and their families.

Throughout my time at Castlepollard Community College, I was able to discover what type of learner I was and still am, what subjects I excelled at and what subjects I needed more focus on. I found practical subjects were the lessons that I felt more at home with my learning. I am a visual learner, I learn through doing. In our academic subjects such as English, Maths and Irish etc teachers taught us in many different ways to adapt to each learner in the class. Every teacher has their own style of teaching and each of them had always one thing in common – They were there for us, they helped us, they knew our individual needs. No matter what classroom you went into you knew that if you we were finding things hard the teacher and also our classmates were there to help.

In particular Art lessons was my go to place during my time through school, It was my favourite lesson and subject. It was a place where I could express, communicate and learn through doing. Lorraine (Miss Mimnagh) was such a big support throughout my time at Castlepollard CC, she opened up my eyes to a whole new world. In Art there is many different areas that you need to cover, like all subjects some areas you might be really strong at and others might be more difficult. No matter what obstacle there was in Art Miss Mimnagh helped us push through that. My passion for art and alongside with making she was a big inspiration along with other teachers for my career aspirations to be a teacher. Lorraine brought us on a trip to NCAD in 5th year, it is here where I really knew this is where I want to go. She supported me and guided me in creating my portfolio to apply for NCAD she put endless hours after school and took her own time to support me in the direction I wanted to go. To be influenced to be a teacher as a career aspiration, I do believe you must have been inspired by those who thought you.

Although NCAD was the college I strived to go to, Miss Mimnagh and I looked at other options such as Sligo IT, DIT and GMIT. I submitted my portfolio to each of these colleges. To get into NCAD your portfolio had to reach specific points to get into the course you wanted. For me I wanted the Education Course as being an Art Teacher was my goal. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the points for the Education Course however I met the points for the Core Year entry which would be studying and coming out of college with just an Art Degree. For Academic Colleges you could apply for schemes such as HEAR and DEAR to help assist your entry into the courses you wanted. However NCAD had a different system which was called the Access Scheme and this was for students that came from DEIS schools or who were classed at a disadvantage from a socio- economical background. After the news of not meeting the portfolio points for the education course I applied for the Access Scheme. It was coming near to the final weeks of school and I received a letter to say that I have been selected for interview for NCAD through the Access Scheme. The interview was the day after my graduation at Castlepollard CC. I received news of being accepted through the access scheme during my Leaving Certificate Exams. The final confirmation to get into NCAD was depending on my results and acceptance through the CEO which happened for me in August 2015.

My journey began at NCAD entering core year, although I did not get the Education Course I was still determined to try. I asked to be put on a waiting list in case students on the course changed their mind and transferred to core year. In February, I was able to transfer to the education course, this was really exciting for me as I finally was able to start the journey that I set out to start from the very beginning of wanting to go to NCAD. During core year we got to try out many different modules, modules that explored painting, 3d, textiles, sculpture etc. As I am a maker, I initially thought that my practice area would be in sculpture however after experimenting and learning and trying out different methods of working; In the second semester of first year I chose Textile Art & Artefact to specialize in and be my Joint Degree subject area.

Although I started off my journey at NCAD looking to be an artist educator, I never thought of also being an artist alongside this. When my journey began studying textiles, it was like a whole new world opened up to me and my passion of wanting to be a maker truly began. Learning to be an educator as well as learning to become an artist and find our specific practice was an amazing experience. I had to go out on placement to different types of schools over the four years of our Education Course. I was lucky enough to come back to complete my Teacher Education Practice at Castlepollard Community College during my third year of college and work and learn alongside Lorraine Mimnagh. Coming back to teach at CCC was a surreal moment for me. I was really grateful for Ms Coyle and Mr McGrath to welcome me back as a Student Teacher into their school. I received an overwhelming amount of support from staff and my old teachers. At first, I was nervous wondering what it was going to be like sitting on the other side of the staffroom door. There was nothing to be nervous about in the end, I was welcomed and respected and guided by all staff. Lorraine was a big support to me, it was a very special moment for me coming back to be mentored by my teacher who inspired me to become one. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I received from all at Castlepollard CC. It was a fantastic experience teaching in the classroom I once learned in. Throughout my college life, the staff have been supportive of me and there has always been contact to see how I am and how I was progressing.

During my time at NCAD I was supported by The Access Scheme for extra support within educational areas such as Visual Culture. The access program gave me many opportunities during my time at college. I had the opportunity of collaborating and facilitating workshops with local youth groups. I was able to apply for bursaries which funded my academic development and courses outside of college. I have always engaged in looking for an outlet within NCAD and also outside of it to help develop my practice. I engaged in courses in other colleges with the support of my TAA tutors at NCAD, the Access Scheme and bursaries to help me do this such as ; The 1916 Leader and Learners and The Mary Cawley Bursary. I have travelled to Budapest to Festivals to engage with other artists and complete workshops. In 2017 I have studied at Grafton Fashion Academy completing an 18 week evening pattern course. I also went to study at Central St Martins in London during the summer of 2018 to complete an Experimental Fashion & Knitwear course. I also travelled to Nottingham to study an Industrial Knitting course at Nottingham Trent University. Without the support of the staff at NCAD and Bursaries I would have not been able to enhance my passion and strive to becoming a maker.

After I graduated at NCAD, in the summer of 2019 I travelled to NTU to complete the knitwear course as this was an opportunity for me to see what the university was like and make connections with other artists and tutors. As I hope to go on and further study at postgraduate level studying Fashion and Knitwear or Innovative Textiles at Nottingham Trent University. I also had the opportunity to perform and wear my work at Body and Soul Festival in Ballinlough Castle. This was very important to me as I had the opportunity to put my work to test in the performance segment but also engage with festival goers. It was a significant moment for me as a lot of my memories and inspiration for my final year project stemmed from here and I got the chance to take the work to where the ideas originated from. After summer I also had the opportunity to display my work at the RDS in Dublin at The Knitting and Stitching Show. I also went back to Castlepollard CC to do some substitution work. Then after the Christmas I moved to Sweden to teach Textiles and Art. I moved to the north of Sweden to a place called Skellefteå. I taught in an International School called Internationella Engelska Skolan Skellefteå.

Moving to Sweden was an opportunity for me to develop my teaching skills but also keep in touch with my practice, as Textiles is not a subject that is taught in

Secondary School in Ireland. I went to Sweden with the hopes of finding inspiration and for self-development to enhance my practice. While the world was put on lockdown and restrictions were put in place, Sweden took a different approach and had minimal restrictions. While universities, schools and workplaces closed in Ireland the schools did not close in Sweden. This worked really well for me as I had the opportunity to continue to work and teach. I only intended to stay and teach in Sweden for 6 months as I had plans of returning to Ireland to develop my artistic practice for future study and to make connections and collaborate in the arts sector of festivals and performance.

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