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Teaching Prisoners is Dream Job for South West Mother-of-Two

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When Joanne Alder made the decision to return to the classroom, as a single parent of two, it was a daunting experience.

“I had mixed feelings about starting a degree as I had negative experiences of education at school and left with no formal qualifications; I never really felt that I fitted in,” she admits.

But six years on, with a First Class Honours under her belt, Joanne knows it was the right choice as she thrives in her “dream job”.

Joanne has just been promoted to Advanced Practitioner within the Education department at Dartmoor Prison, having worked for the last two years as a lecturer, teaching Functional Skills Maths to the prisoners. “Most of those that I teach have had, like myself, a negative experience of education, and many are disengaged, having had no formal education before,” she said. “But I go to great lengths to ensure that they are engaged, using innovative teaching methods.”

Forty-three-year-old Joanne puts much of her negative school experience down to a lack of support with her dyslexia.

“I knew for some time that I probably had dyslexia but I wasn’t fully assessed until I applied for my degree at the age of 40,” she said. “This meant that strategies would be put into place that suited my own, individual learning needs and I immediately felt more equal to my peers.”

Joanne, who was working as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant, began her academic journey in 2009 by studying a Foundation degree in Teaching and Learning with the Learning Institute in association with the University of Worcester. She then progressed on to the Professional Practice BA (Hons) Top-up Degree, graduating in 2012 with a First Class Honours degree.

“To start with I applied for a promotion within the school I was working at, as the Lead Professional for Inclusion and this was successful, I loved this job but due to the holidays I was not earning enough,” she said. “I found, by accident, an advertisement by Weston College for a generalist lecturer at Dartmoor Prison and quickly realised that this would be my dream job. I applied and was successful but terrified.”

She continued: “Every day, without fail, I get to witness someone falling in love with learning and I know that this is going to reduce reoffending. I suppose that I can relate to this, as my lecturers never made me feel anything but included, supported and most of all they never once doubted my potential. I am so lucky to be able to model this support in my own position and I will always be grateful to them for giving me my own love for learning.”