If you can dream it, you can do it!

by Eileen Rowntree @EileenRown3

Anyone who knows me, knows of my passion for Disney and my title is a quote by Walt Disney. I was reared with magical fairy tales and inspirational messages as we created memories as a family. No matter how old I get, I still get chills when I see the Magic Kingdom and I have loved watching our two children grow up with the same experiences, as we enjoy seeing the magic through their eyes too. This life experience has given me self-worth and an awareness of how things impact children.


Life is a journey

Both my parents had to forfeit an academic pathway. They each lost a parent very young, hardship knocked and needs must. They valued what they had and yet took every opportunity that came their way. These were life lessons instilled in us and I learned quickly that to progress in life, you needed to find your own way.


My journey in to Education was later in life and came as a result of volunteering in a local Volunteer Bureau. I worked passionately with young adults with special education needs, loving the interaction and helping others flourish. I also loved to celebrate their success and took part in many fundraising and drama societies in order to do this. Slowly, I was finding my voice locally. I began to challenge Councils as they managed budget and omitted funding for the Bureau and I conquered my fear to interview on radio in order to broadcast for the needs of these young adults, something I never thought I would ever do! This went from strength to strength when I was invited to speak on radio to defend teachers and the work they do in their profession. I am now host of that show some 13 years on, debating on all things education and encouraging others, irrespective of gender, to raise their voice until it is heard.


Where am I now?

I am a lifelong learner committed to doing the best I can in the teaching profession. I have thrived as a classroom practitioner, never underestimating the impact I have on my pupils. Every day is a learning day – for us all! I became an advisory teacher leading the development of Literacy with the Education Authority. My passion for the job is obvious, I am realistic and have an open-door policy. I work hard to inject the same passion in my training as I try to amplify the voices of women in education to evaluate and improve on their own practice. Too often though, this is advice I need to take personally and put myself higher on my own ‘to do’ list! The creditability I have established across the phases with teachers is a result of simply listening to their needs as I pioneer new ideas and make connections to make us more effective. I don’t get my inspiration from books or research; I get it from the women I meet.

We are all equal. We are there to work collaboratively and we need to support each other, not just as professionals, but also as human beings.

Lessons learned

The most valuable and important lesson I have learned is that we all need to remain connected with each other – the current pandemic has heightened this even more. We are a united profession willing to work together.

My advice is to source groups like #WomenEd and #Lean In and be part of an ambitious team of women working to create a more equal and inclusive workplace. Get involved virtually. Meet others nationally and globally and form alliances to share your experiences. Help challenge systems so that there is equality for all. I did! I became 10% braver and accepted an offer to present at the second @WomenEdNI Unconference in Northern Ireland. Daunting as it was, I am now part of a network of like-minded professionals that has grown and learned much from each other.


Know that we are all working towards the one agenda.

We have been tested to the limits during 2020 and we are without doubt, deserving of every opportunity and of every chance to pursue our dreams. In the words of JB Priestly, “We are all responsible for each other and we are all members of one body”.  We must keep looking out for each other and stay connected!

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