Kerri-Ellen Oliver

BSc (Hons) in Early Childhood Care, Health & Education

Kerri-Ellen Oliver If you don’t necessarily get what you want first time round, finding another way can be all the more rewarding.  That’s the experience of Kerri-Ellen who chose Early Childhood Care, Health and Education at ATU Donegal as a stepping stone, to becoming a primary school teacher.  It’s the main reason why she’s currently studying a Masters in Primary School teaching at St. Pats, Dublin. “If it hadn’t been for the degree at ATU Donegal I wouldn’t be here.”
A native of Monaghan, Kerri-Ellen loves working with children. She decided to study at ATU Donegal because she’d heard the course had an excellent reputation and that the campus had a friendly atmosphere. The fact that Letterkenny is more affordable than Dublin was also a factor. “Letterkenny is a lovely town, it’s got everything you need.”
The big surprise for Kerri-Ellen was the depth of subjects covered on the degree particularly because it includes health and education.
“Learning through play and about the emotions behind the behaviours of young children really inspired me.”

In her opinion, the Early Childhood Care course has given her skills and insights way beyond what she expected. “If I’d gone straight into teaching I wouldn’t have the knowledge that I have now.”

Another big advantage of ATU Donegal is that the lecturers have a reputation for ‘active’ learning that reflects the real world and can be applied in the work environment. Classes are interactive with lots of discussion and explore authentic situations. Kerri-Ellen says that because lecturers have strong industry links and have substantial experience working with children, “You learn the latest thinking and get practical knowledge.” Now studying in a bigger campus Kerri-Ellen can see how ATU Donegal is so much more personal. “There’s a great connection with the lecturers. They’ve always got time for you, always ready to help.”

The work placement on the course was a highlight for Kerri Ellen. It was when she was able to help a non-verbal wee boy who was terrified of the swings that the value of what she’d learned on the course really hit home. “I was able to help build his confidence. To see him clapping and smiling, enjoying those swings was brilliant.”

It hasn’t been plain sailing though. In her first semester at ATU Donegal, Kerri-Ellen broke her leg. “If it hadn’t been for the Heads of Department and lecturers who encouraged me and understood, I wouldn’t have got through it.” She feels ATU Donegal is different from other colleges because of the community spirit. “You feel important. You’re not anonymous.”

In between taking Irish in the evenings on top of her regular studies she managed to fit in being Class Representative. Kerri Ellen says she enjoyed every moment at ATU Donegal, “The college has so much to offer, amazing facilities, lots of things going on and a brilliant atmosphere.” Her advice to students is to go for what you want even if it’s not always the most direct route. “Be determined. You learn from every experience. It’ll stand to you.”

Kerri-Ellen plans to teach for a few years and believes the Early Childhood degree has given her a significant advantage in her primary school studies. “Anyone working with children should do it.” Long term she’s set her sights on opening her own preschool and crèche and returning to Letterkenny. “I loved studying at ATU Donegal, if I could I’d go back and do it again!”