Introducing Academic Coach, Zoe Holland

In this article I'd like to introduce you to Zoe Holland, who has joined my team as an academic coach, bringing a wealth of teaching and parenting experiences to the role.

Zoe Holland - academic coachAll about Zoe Holland, Academic Coach

Zoe Holland is a recent Head of Sixth Form and senior leader with 21 years’ experience in teaching History, Politics and Sociology. Since graduating from the universities of Reading and Hull, she has held a variety of roles including head of curriculum, pastoral leadership and has worked as a self-employed educational consultant. Alongside coaching and tutoring, she currently teaches part-time at a college in the north of England.

 As an experienced examiner, Zoe is particularly effective in helping students to achieve the best grades possible at GCSE and A-Level. She particularly enjoys helping students through the sixth form with a focus on study skills and organisation ensuring a smooth transition through to university. Coaching is something that comes second nature to Zoe who is immensely proud of her record in securing fantastic university places for her students. She is also Mum to three children, so is very well placed to fully understand the current challenges facing young people in 2021.

My interview with Zoe

Can you tell us about your history and what brought you to academic coaching?

It sometimes shocks me when I remind myself that this is my twenty-first year as a qualified teacher. It's been quite a journey. The signs of my interest in teaching and helping students to learn were there early on.

I was educated at a comprehensive school near Reading in Berkshire. There were two groups of students: some that wanted to achieve academically and those who didn't. I quickly aligned myself with those who wanted to do well, seizing every opportunity that came my way. I also wanted to go to university and learn about history.

Becoming a teacher, teaching the subject that I love, came naturally. I did my teacher training at the University of Hull. I didn't intend to stay in the area, but after training at a private school, I decided to take my first post at a state school. I was attracted to the idea of helping a very wide variety of students and instill that love of the subject I found so infectious when I was at school.

Over the years I took on a variety of jobs at single-sex schools, rural and urban schools allowing me to connect with a wider variety of students than I ever knew existed. Being Head of Lower School, Head of History and, most recently, Head of Sixth Form, have given me the opportunity to be part of the journey for many students, which has been a huge privilege, and that is really why I find myself here, becoming an academic coach.

It's about helping students to realise their dreams – it's a magical process.

What's been your biggest struggle in your own education and how did you overcome it?

I think I got the shock of my life in Year 12. At GCSE I worked hard, but nothing quite prepared me for the demands of A-Level. After a couple of terms of getting grades I really wasn't happy with, it really shook me up and it was a do or die moment. I thought, “I can come out of the sixth form with nothing, or I can work hard and come out with something really, really good.”

I talked to my teachers because I was working hard, asking them to tell me what I needed to do to improve. It turned out that although I had all the knowledge and information, it was the exam technique that I needed to work on. I needed to marry the two things together: knowledge and the art of exam technique.

Those less than impressive grades at the start of year 12 instilled that resilience in me that is hard to learn because no-one likes to take knocks on their educational journey, particularly if they work hard. It can be quite emotionally bruising.

I buckled down, and that's a story that I often tell students: not every teacher they meet has found school easy.

I've enjoyed helping students through this process over the years.

Can you tell us about the experience you have as a parent and teacher and how this informs your work as an academic coach?

Speaking as a parent, we're all great parents until we have children ourselves! I grew up with this desire to do well and never really questioned that my children would have the same thoughts and characteristics. My eldest son turned out to be very, very sporty, he's a very talented cricketer, and this took precedence over his studies which caused some tricky conversations between us.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is reading for pleasure. I took time to read to my children, and to have them reluctant to read felt very strange. Sometimes, as a teacher, your children are less receptive to the messages you'd give to your students.

All of my three children are very, very different which has given me a valuable insight – the chances are, I've experienced it as a parent when I look parents in the eye. I've been through the 11+ and GCSEs – I'm in a privileged position as a coach because I've been through what families have been through, particularly what's going on at the moment with students learning at home and the mental health side of things.

As a teacher, my key ethos has always been, “Is this good enough for my child?” Every lesson and every conversation I have very high standards for myself.

My pastoral roles have given me an insight into the mental challenges our young people face, it's never been harder for them, they have a lot on their plate.

Quickfire questions to end

Which book has had the biggest impact on your life?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou. It's all about overcoming adversity and not letting experiences define you.

Your favourite teacher and why?

There were many very special teachers – they all thing had one thing in common: they cared. They also encouraged and had that belief. My favourite teacher was Miss Kent, my English teacher. She really instilled that love of English and that love of the language and fascination with opening a book and not knowing where it was going to take you.

Favourite holiday destination?

St Petersburg was a highlight and seeing the Winter Palace and spending a year in America in Tennessee.

Right now I like the idea of somewhere warm and sunny, with water. A favourite holiday is North Devon – Croyde and Woolacombe.

Favourite takeaway or food?

Thai takeaway because you can never make it quite as well as my local.

Most used app on your phone?

Gusto, the food app. You can choose a meal selection and they send you all the ingredients in a box.

Would you like Zoe to be your academic coach?

If you'd like Zoe to help you improve your study skills, revision or mindset click here to find out about our academic coaching packages. On that page, you can also book a call to discuss what you're looking for. If you'd like to work with Zoe just let us know, or we can recommend the best coach on our team for you.

Click here to find out more about academic coaching.

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