Abigail Skillen

Abigail’s first degree, volunteer activity and PGCE led her to a teaching job.

BA (Hons) Dance, PGCE: Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, MA Professional Dance Practice

'I am very much looking forward to developing my creative teaching approaches as a dance specialist into a new subject area.'

Abigail Skillen

What brought you to study at Teesside University?

I chose to study dance as I had always loved taking part in dance classes and decided to study something which I enjoyed. I decided on Teesside as the dance course focuses on a variety of elements such as facilitation and dance for camera, which stood out from the other dance courses I considered.

What was the course like?

I particularly enjoyed the Dance for Camera module, which is about how dance can be appreciated in the many different contexts, spaces and the possibilities that the screen medium offers; something I focused on for my Final Major Project. The facilitation modules covered teaching many different learners and target groups and offered a chance to try teaching through workshops and a placement, which I completed at Flex Dance Inc. in Leeds.

From the middle of my degree studies and throughout my PGCE year, I taught dance at Teesside Dance Club. It was very good experience to work with students with mixed abilities but all with the same enthusiasm from Dance. We worked as a team to share and learn different styles – contemporary, street, jazz, tap and Bollywood to name a few. Teesside Dance won Club of the year in 2012 and won the Tees/Wear Varsity competition. I became Chairman of the club during my PGCE year, and organised charity events, went on tour to Salou, and took part in various competitions. I gained valuable teaching experience and leadership skills with Teesside Dance Club and am proud to have been part of the club’s successes.

What did you do next?

I completed a PGCE, with a teaching placement at Redcar Academy, to put the theory into practice and gained excellent knowledge and teaching skills from a highly experienced mentor.

My first full-time role was as teacher of Dance at Redcar Academy, which was an excellent start as it is a specialist Visual and Performing Arts Academy. On a maternity cover as the only dance teacher, my responsibilities included leading the Dance department, planning and delivering the BTEC Level 2 in Performing Arts and creative Key Stage 3 lessons as well as becoming a form tutor. My second post was as teacher of Key Stage 3 Dance (maternity cover) at Queen Katherine School in Kendal, Cumbria. Teaching only the younger students in the school gave me a chance to refine my pedagogy and to share ideas with other dance teachers. I returned to Redcar Academy for a second time as Teacher of Dance (maternity cover) and it was great to return to see how the students have developed.

I also completed an MA, in which I continued to explore the role of editor as choreographer for my final MA research project.

What are you doing now?

I have a full-time post teaching cultural awareness at Whitehaven Academy. I am very much looking forward to developing my creative teaching approaches as a dance specialist into a new subject area and enhancing and creating opportunities for my new students to enjoy dance.