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I never believed I could get a degree, let alone end up in my dream job!

Teaching had always been Emma’s dream but when her teachers at school flagged that she might be dyslexic she feared her ambition was out of reach. However, with the help of The Open University and a bucket load of determination, Emma has finally achieved her goal and starts a job as a newly qualified teacher next year.

Here she tells her story:

I battled my way through school without any additional support because my parents avoided getting me formally diagnosed as they thought it might hinder my chances of becoming a teacher. I excelled in hands-on subjects but anything that required writing I would really struggle with.

I got the grades to study primary education at a traditional university, but I just could not keep up with the pace of what we had to read so I left.

After working in various jobs for a while I did a Foundation in Art and Design through a local college – which suited me much better as it was weighted towards practical assessments rather than written, then got a job in the industry but there was always this niggle that I wanted to be a teacher, but I thought that was daft, because I can’t even read!

Emma Cressey

One day I saw an old email from The Open University and in a fit of madness, without telling anyone, I applied to top up my foundation degree to an honours, with the dream of training to teach design and technology.

Life-changing support

I’d struggled to read at school, and the OU brought these struggles flooding back but this time I did something about it and got a formal assessment done through the OU.

Opening up the diagnosis report, I was shocked. It said I had the reading age of a 14-year-old which was difficult to take in, but it was a relief to finally have a reason for why I found it so difficult.

The OU provided me with course modules in alternative formats such as audio books, printed material for online only modules, coloured paper and ink as well as glasses with yellow lenses. With the coloured overlays and adaptations, I could actually read the pages. I went from hitting 60% in my second module to getting 89% in my third, just weeks apart. It brought back my self-belief. You lose that when you can’t read.

In order to bolster my chances of getting a place on a teacher training course, I volunteered at a school and when the school changed to an academy, I was offered a job as a part-time teacher and part-time technology technician which was completely amazing.

Giving up was never an option

I look back now and wonder where I found the time to study, and work, and look after my family, but I was determined, and told myself that I wasn’t giving up. Whatever was thrown my way I kept going, I believed in myself, I studied hard. Ultimately you have two choices you keep going or you quit! Well I had one option …. KEEP GOING – quitting was never going to be an option.

I put my husband and kids through hell as deadlines approached and results were due. The dream was getting closer, the grades were not a “fluke” or a generous tutor. They kept coming. I kept reading, writing, learning.

Emma Cressey with her daughter

I was totally dedicated, and I was resolute that I’d sprint over the finish line. Every time I got another assignment result, I wanted a better result the next time. I remember running around my garden the day my final results came in. I just happened to be looking on The Open University website and they were there. I was like ‘oh my god I actually did it, I actually did it’!! I completed my degree and with first class honors!!

Dream job

Even now I suffer from imposter syndrome, as if it’s not actually me that’s done it. I’m massively proud of myself. The OU opened doors, educated me, and changed my life. For the girl who scraped a C in maths at school and couldn’t finish her GCSE English, I never believed I could get a degree, let alone end up in my dream job!



About Author

Katy works in the Media Relations team within the Marketing and Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 12 years' experience in PR and began her career in television publicity before moving into the Higher Education sector. She has a BA (Hons) in Politics and Communications from Loughborough University and specialises in ambassador and student stories.

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