UCL Alumna Profile: Christina Sparks, Primary Teacher with ARK Teacher Training
By UCL Careers, on 16 April 2014
Christina graduated from UCL in 2011 with a degree in English. She is currently training to become a primary school teacher at Reach Academy with ARK Teacher Training. Here, Christina takes some time to talk about her experiences at UCL, how these have helped prepare her for her career, and how she is able to make a big difference with ARK Teacher Training.
After she graduated, Christina worked for a major global investment bank. Between her second and third years of study, she successfully completed an internship with the bank who offered her a job upon graduation. There, she worked as a Document Management Analyst, managing client relationships and contracts. Despite this being an interesting experience, Christina felt that there were other ways in which she’d like to be challenged, including making better use of her English skills.
Throughout her time at UCL, Christina worked as a student ambassador taking part in school visits and showing students aged between 14 and 18 what life was like at university. It was this experience that first piqued an interest in teaching, especially when she discovered that some children have had a very different experience of education compared to hers. ‘I was always pushed, and we were told that we could be whatever we wanted to be’ she recalls, ‘but it seems that there are a lot of young people out there who aren’t getting that encouragement’.
She left the bank after a year and joined Reach Academy as a teaching assistant, and this was where she discovered ARK Teacher Training. She had spoken to colleagues about becoming a teacher, and they mentioned ARK’s highly supportive programme. ‘The programme sounded great. It looked really tough, and it is, but the multi-layered support from ARK has been fantastic. I meet with my mentor (also a UCL alumnus) really frequently and get weekly training from ARK’s experts. The course is also academically very rigorous’.
The rewards are also great: ‘I love teaching primary. There is more fun, more joy in the classroom. It’s an amazing experience when you teach a Year One child to read and they turn round and say “I can’t believe I’ve just read something!”’
Looking back, Christina recalls UCL’s impact on the success of her teacher training year: ‘my time at UCL prepared me very well for teaching. The emphasis on self-reliance and self-motivation from UCL is vital to teaching and training with ARK, because there is a huge amount to get done and it is very much down to you to sort it. That said, I have had a huge amount of support from ARK, and the excellent mentoring arrangements they have feel similar to the relationships I had with my tutors at UCL.
‘My degree from UCL has also equipped me with some useful skills for the classroom and work more generally. We were always encouraged to be inquisitive, and this really helps when dealing with small children since quite often, if something is wrong, they can’t really explain what or why. My self-awareness and communication skills were also really improved by my time at UCL.’
Christina’s main advice to current UCL students thinking about their careers is to do their research before applying for a role; ultimately it is something they will be doing every day and they should be motivated by the organisation’s mission and ethos. Equally, students should remember that if they outgrow a role, they will have plenty of transferable skills to take forward to a new job or even career, as Christina herself experienced!
ARK Schools is an education charity and one of the country’s top-performing academy operators. Its aim is to create outstanding schools that give every pupil, regardless of their background, the opportunity to go to university or pursue the career of their choice and they are taking part in UCL Careers’ Employability Summer School – a 2 week programme running between 2nd – 13th June.