Our graduates

  • Helen McKay 
  • BA History (MA Historical Research)
  • Graduated 2003
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Why did you decide to study history at Sheffield?

The Department of History at Sheffield was my first choice when I applied for university in 2000. I enjoyed the variety of the Single Honours History Degree, as it ensured that you studied a breadth of historical periods and events. This was important for me as my ambition was always to be a secondary school History teacher. The course was clearly structured and I always felt supported and encouraged by the teaching staff. However, it was extremely challenging and demanding!

What did you enjoy about your course?

By the end of my second year, the Early Modern period had become my favourite area of study. This surprised me, as I had always preferred the Twentieth Century. As I began my dissertation, I realised how much I loved studying and writing and did not feel ready to give it up. The focus of my dissertation was on magical healing in the seventeenth century. I travelled to the British Library to carry out my research on original documents- a real thrill for any historian!

What did you do next?

I discussed the possibility of completing an MA in Historical Research with the Head of Department, and was delighted by his encouraging response. It had never been part of my long-term plan, mainly because I didn´t think I was capable of doing it. My tutors were very supportive and gave me the confidence to take on the challenge. The MA allowed me to fulfil my academic potential, and made me even more enthusiastic about becoming a teacher. I did my PGCE at Sheffield too, which illustrates how much I love the city and the University itself. I still maintain that this year was the most exhausting and testing, yet the most rewarding. I completed my PGCE in June 2005 and began teaching at St Mary´s RC High School in Chesterfield in September.

I am now entering my fifth year in the profession and still love it! Ignore all the cynics that moan about the paper work and targets, although it is a drag, the students make it all worthwhile. My studies at Sheffield have been invaluable, as our A Level syllabus is Early Modern (quite unusual nowadays!). I feel that my learning genuinely benefits my students, and in return I learn from them. I am also Head of Year 9, which allows me to become more involved in the wider challenges faced by the students.

How do you feel about Sheffield?

I loved being a student at Sheffield, although I think I enjoy the social side of the city more now than when I was a penniless Undergraduate! It is without question that the knowledge and skills I developed there have enabled me to fulfill my lifelong ambition of teaching the subject I adore.

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