As an adult in my late twenties, I was constantly heard whining about not having any qualifications to my name.  Eventually, instead of sitting on my laurels, I decided to do something about it.  I enrolled on the local VTOS course in Killarney, where over two years I was able to study for my Leaving Certificate.  My experience in VTOS was so positive and powerful that it changed the whole course of my life. 

Mary Hurley - testimonialAdult education is based on an environment of trust and respect among students and teachers, which allows the student to relax and concentrate on achieving their learning goals.  Teachers in this environment have empathy and patience and are considerate of the different needs of each adult learner.  This environment also allows the student’s personal development to take shape, as they can become aware themselves of their own strengths and weaknesses.  To say I enjoyed my time in VTOS would be an understatement: at the end of my two years there I aspired to be like them, my role models: the teachers in adult education. 

I received all the encouragement I needed from VTOS to go on to Further Education and, after successfully completing my Leaving Certificate, I was offered a place in the ITT to study for a degree in e-Business.  This course was four years long, and I completed it in 2004, being awarded a first-class honours degree.  As part of my degree course I had to do three months work experience and again, VTOS came to the rescue here and allowed me to do my experience with them.  Completing my work experience here clarified for me that adult education was the area I wanted to work in.  So, in September 2004, clutching my very much valued qualifications, I entered the world of adult education, only this time as a tutor with Kerry Education Services, not as a student.

To say that the journey was without its trials and tribulations would be a lie: with three children and a husband to look after there were certainly hair-pulling moments!  But I can honestly say that it has all been worth it.  In fact, my belief and value in lifelong learning is so strong that in September 2007 I began my Graduate Diploma in Adult and Continuing Education with Mary Immaculate College, Limerick to get my teaching qualification.  I finished that in May 2008, with a much valued first-class honour in it.  Again, this love of learning was born at the beginning of my journey in Killarney VTOS and has seen me through right to the end. I have taken great pride over the years in the fact that I helped to encourage other adults back into adult education where they could see the difference it would make to their lives.  I do consider myself to be a living advocate of lifelong learning, and proof that it can be done, regardless of life circumstances.

My personal highlight to date in this amazing journey has to be when I was redeployed to teach in Killarney VTOS in January 2011, where for me this story first began.  The feeling of achievement at having come full circle and to be able to stand beside the wonderful tutors who inspired me initially to believe in myself and follow my dream is for me the pinnacle of success.

At present Mary Hurley is working Killarney VTOS and also in Killarney Adult Literacy and Basic Education.
Mary A. O’ Connor

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