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 - ABDO College

Lecturer’s role scores top marks for career satisfaction

There are many choices of career in optics but one that may not be on your radar is that of College lecturer. It is an option that offers many benefits and great deal of satisfaction, as lecturer Sally Bates emphasises.

Sally has been a lecturer at ABDO College for 21 years and the annual graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral is the highlight of her academic year as it is the embodiment of what her job aims for.

“I feel so proud to witness the graduants I taught and trained fulfil their aspirations of becoming dispensing opticians,” Sally explained. “Encouraging people and unlocking their potential is a particular part of my role that I relish.

“I’m very proud to say I have taught an amazing group of people who have progressed to become lecturers, lens account managers, professional services managers, orthoptists, hospital opticians, low vision opticians, contact lens opticians, optometrists, examiners, company directors and even the current head of ABDO examinations.”

Another benefit of being a lecturer at the College is working with colleagues who are committed to providing excellent teaching. “Working as a team, we support and encourage each other,” Sally enthused. “As lecturers, we also know exactly when we can take holidays as these are out of term-time, which is ideal for my colleagues with children.”

But what does the lecturer’s job require? The academic year comprises of 36 weeks of face-to-face teaching. Sally prepares her own teaching materials and plans her classroom resources. Some weeks are busier than others as student numbers vary, which means that administration duties fluctuate.

So what personality traits are good for the role? “Often students feel they can’t cope with the theory course content, however I remind them that the role of a dispensing optician is predominantly about having a personality, paying attention to detail and being nice to people. The same skills are required in teaching,” Sally highlighted.

“Having the patience to explain, the skills to demonstrate, organisational skills and making time to give encouragement are paramount when teaching,” she added.

Sally’s career began at the age of 15 when she spent a week in practice with her sister, Christine Harm, and decided that she wanted to be a dispensing optician. “I felt I had found my niche. Forty years later I still feel the same,” she emphasised.

Sally attended Bradford College at 16 and worked at Conlon Opticians throughout the holidays and her pre-reg year. “I worked with two excellent supervisors. They were great mentors and developed the professional attitude in me that I still draw upon today,” she said.

After being selected to train optical assistants and dispensing optician managers at the Miller & Santhouse optical group, Sally found that she enjoyed sharing her knowledge and practical skills.

In 1987 she became an ABDO practical examiner, lecturing and examining in the UK and overseas. The company she worked for was acquired by Boots Opticians and Sally was seconded to the Nottingham head office to write optical assistant training courses.

In 1992 when Sally returned home to the Wirral as a practice manager, she wanted to develop her training skills and gained a Further and Adult Education Teachers Certificate through night school. “I consider I completed a 12-year apprenticeship comprising of dispensing, management, training and examining. These were the firm foundations of my career,” Sally commented.

In 1993 she was encouraged to apply for a full-time teaching post at Anglia Ruskin University. “This was a massive step, moving away from home, making new friends, teaching, writing lessons, marking work, writing exam papers and mentoring young people,” she said. “At first, I found it daunting, but almost 30 years later, I still love it. However, it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation,” she emphasised.

In 2000 ABDO College’s Founding Principal, Jo Underwood, invited Sally to lecture, prior to moving into Godmersham. “Jo, Gillian Smith and I taught our first group of 20 students in a hotel, which was a unique experience,” Sally reminisced.

“Over the years, I have been very fortunate and always believe that when one door closes, another one opens. All we have to do is open our eyes to see the opportunities.”