About the TeachNorthern Team

Claire Kelly

Claire KellyI joined the TeachNorthern team recently, in the role of Academic Skills Nurse (or, as a mis-spelling revealed, ‘Murse’ – cross between a Muse and a Nurse).  A graduate of the programme’s Cert Ed, and currently studying for BA (Hons) Education and Professional Development, I bring a peer-mentoring approach to Academic Skills, applying the FAB Resilience model to working alongside students, rather than telling them what to do.  Whether online, at Writing Bootcamp, during Skills Workshops or one-to-one, this approach effectively grows confidence and reduces apostrophe abuse.

I am also a community and family learning educator, bringing a broad experience to Northern College’s Community Learning programme, alongside my work for TeachNorthern.  My research interests centre around challenging ‘othering’ in education, with a particular focus on the intersections between gender and class.


Alison Longden


I worked for a local authority for many years before jumping ship to become a social purpose educator.  I bring my eye for detail to a team which tells me (tongue in cheek) that they strive to #bemoreali!  Initially a little unconfident around digital, I have surprised myself by pioneering work around e-assessment, shifting the thinking of not only the organisation but the awarding body. I try to embody the FAB Model of Digital Resilience which myself and Tom Monaghan have been developing over the past couple of years. Our work on FAB2 – Opening the Arms – is due to be published in 2016.

With my colleagues Tom and Claire, I run the Level 3 Award in Education and Training, bringing a social purpose perspective to this ‘first step’ qualification for educators and would-be educators.  I am currently studying for an MA in Education with the University of Huddersfield.


Tom Monaghan

I was a business systems analyst before making a career change to train as a social purpose educator.  I studied on the TeachNorthern programme and joined the team in 2014.  I am now studying for MSc Education Technology at The University of Huddersfield.

My role as Digital Nurse has emerged, slightly tongue-in-cheek, out of the expressed needs IMG_6736of students on our blended learning teacher education programme at The Northern College. I’m around on- and off-line to provide a quality of support which is driven by pedagogy and the student experience.  This is not a service for password resets; it’s a service that teaches you how to store and reset your own passwords, becoming more resilient in the process.

The Digital Nurse role was identified via our FAB Projects, alongside the FAB Model of digital resilience which we explore elsewhere and which I’m is now testing in the FAB2 Action Research project with Alison Longden.  This same model holds good for other aspects of resilience and we are testing a new role of Academic Skills Nurse (Claire Kelly) from 2016.

New challenges require new concepts and definitions.  Leading edutech thinkers all agree that in education, pedagogy must lead the digital revolution.  But until educators themselves are able to grow their own confidence and resilience, all the tech in the world will make no difference to the quality of learning.  With the team, I’m leading the advance in the FAB approach, not just on the TeachNorthern programme but in my empowerment work with community groups and organisations across South Yorkshire.


Lou Mycroft

In my day job I’m a teacher educator, working at The Northern College, Barnsley, in Yorkshire, UK.  I’ve been at the College since 2000, arriving via a short and brutal career in Lou Nice Pic March 2016community development.  My professional background is Public Health. As a tutor for the Community Regeneration Programme at Northern College, I saw the same students come back time and time again, bringing new cohorts of volunteers, and it occurred to me that sustainability might be better met, if key people learned to teach.

So that’s how it started.  I’d had a mixed experience of teacher education, as a student.  A non-accredited ‘Training the Trainers’ course at the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health in Sheffield quite literally changed my life (no surprise to learn of its grounding in Freirean principles then), but the PGCE I later completed was hindered by my own bad attitude (“I just need the qualification” – how arrogant) and the dullness of the course.  If teaching was exciting – and it is – why should teacher training be anything less than a transformational learning experience?

Since 2008 we’ve been developing a pedagogy of social purpose education, which I believe offers hope for the future of education.  I was also lucky to train with Nancy Kline as a Thinking Environment Coach and Consultant (Kline, 2009), a connection back to those early days at the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health.  Alongside our commitment to the democratising potential of social media, what we offer on the TeachNorthern programme is a rich environment in which people can think critically for themselves, and act collectively in praxis.

I also write (I love to write).  This blog, articles whenever I get the chance, on social media…Twitter has been the single most helpful discipline for my writing.  I’ve contributed to three books and am proudest of my chapter with Jane Weatherby in Further Education and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Watch this space for our next outing with many of the same mischievous team, based on Machiavelli’s The Prince.


Kay Sidebottom

IMG_3452I’m a teacher with 15  years experience of further, higher and local government education.  I’m also a political awareness trainer, using Thinking Environments to bring equality to professional spaces. Recently, and alongside my colleague Karol, I’ve been travelling the country, bringing Community Philosophy inquiries to teacher educators and trainee teachers, as they think through the implications of Prevent for themselves.  I’ve also been working with Restorative Practice approaches around behaviour management, at Northern College and in my other teacher education work at Barnsley College down the road.  These pro-social approaches give focus to my contribution to ‘educate out hate’.

In recent years, I have rediscovered the joy of creative writing and I try to share this with students, colleagues and critical friends via the Community of Praxis and work I have done around creative reflexive thinking.  I love Twitter and really enjoy seeing others refresh their praxis through online connection.

I begin a new adventure in 2016 – an interdisciplinary PhD in social justice education.  I’m hoping it will continue to inspire innovation and good thinking in my practice.


Karol Thornton


I have more than two decades of experience of working in local government, a variety of charities and within the voluntary sector. I have written and organised training for a wide range of organisations. These have included West Yorkshire police, housing providers, youth offending services, primary and secondary schools, higher education, children’s centres, teacher educator teams, trade unions, mental health leadership teams, and a range of community faith and voluntary organisations. I have addressed and facilitated workshops at regional, national and international conferences

I am an advanced practitioner through the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and I hold a PGCE through Huddersfield University. My training practice is with a social purpose and is guided with inspiration from Nancy Kline’s “Time to Think” and restorative practice approaches which enable a sense of belonging.  I use community philosophy principles where appropriate to deepen understanding.


Jill Wilkens

I am a member of the Teacher Education team at Northern College, currently working on a sessional basis. My career in education started back in the late 1980s and I worked in the post-sixteen sector for over twenty-five years, teaching a mixture of social sciences, Jill profileinterpersonal skills and teacher-education. From the start of my career I have always felt at home in education; loving the rhythm of the year, the sense of excitement as students start to find their feet and the joy when they ‘fly’.

In 2010, I took a career break from full-time work and embarked on a MA in Women’s Studies. Unexpectedly, I discovered that I have a passion for research and I’m now at the tail end of a funded PhD. I feel that spending the last six years in a new field, learning new skills and being on the ‘receiving end’ of education has informed and enhanced my practice as a teacher.

My PhD has looked at how being mobile across the life course can create a sense of ‘habitus dislocation’; a sense of being out of place, feeling like a ‘fish out of water’. I am interested in doing further research, to determine what factors trigger this sense of displacement in non-traditional learners and, more importantly, what providers can do to support such students. I already know that TeachNorthern’s social purpose approach embraces students as themselves, which I see as a crucial starting point to everyone’s learning journey.



6 thoughts on “About the TeachNorthern Team”

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