She is currently teaching in a school as a Teach for Austria fellow. In this interview she tells us about her wide-ranging CV and the path that eventually led her to a place on the Teach for Austria programme.
Why did you decide to study at IMC Krems?
Therese Werl: Before sitting my school-leaving exams in 2006, I was looking around for a suitable degree course and came across the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology programme at IMC Krems. I knew I definitely wanted to take a degree related to pharmaceuticals. After giving it a lot of thought, I opted for the more personal approach at IMC Krems, as opposed to the overcrowded pharmaceuticals programme at the University of Vienna. Later on I found out about the Environmental and Sustainability Management master programme through the contacts I had made in Krems, and knew straight away that it would be perfect for me.
As I mentioned, I really appreciated the more personal approach at IMC Krems – which was already apparent during the admissions procedure – in contrast to the University of Vienna. Campus Krems is beautiful and isn’t so big as to be overwhelming, and the lecturers showed an interest in me as a person, not just as a student. Other decisive factors were English as the language of instruction, the opportunity to gain lots of practical experience and spend a semester abroad, and the training in management and social skills to complement the specialist Knowledge.
What did you specialise in during your studies?
During my bachelor degree and my internship in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I focused on the detection of marine toxins in shellfish with a view to replacing mouse bioassay and reducing the need for animal testing. After graduating, I started out in project management at Baxter Innovations GmbH and became a specialist in this area. I stayed there for four years, learned a lot and developed a keen interest in management. I started my master programme in my spare time, and wrote my thesis on the company’s sustainability management systems.
What aspects of your studies proved most useful when you started work after graduating?
This isn’t an easy question for me to answer, because I think it’s always a combination of many different factors that helps you to get on. When I started out in project management, the management skills I’d learned and the work experience I’d gained in an English-speaking environment definitely helped, but the subject-specific knowledge certainly did too. And when I began teaching in schools as a Teach for Austria fellow, my management experience came in handy again, as well as my experience of studying in small groups at IMC Krems.
Do you keep in touch with your former university, fellow students and lecturers?
There are times when I have a lot of contact with my former classmates, who I now count as friends. I’ve even worked with some of them for a while. I don’t catch up with my lecturers so often, but I have the feeling that it’s okay to get in touch at any time if I need something or have an idea.
How did your career progress after you graduated?
After I graduated from the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology bachelor programme, I continued specialising in biotechnology with a Programme at UAS Technikum Wien. After that I got a job in project management at Baxter Innovations GmbH, where I worked on the implementation of development projects for haemophilia medication. My keen interest in management led me to the part-time Environmental and Sustainability Management programme, and I did my master thesis on sustainability management at Baxter. My passion for sustainable development helped me to fully appreciate how important education is to society when it comes to creating a sustainable world. Soon after, I applied to become a Teach for Austria fellow, and since September 2016 I’ve been a teacher at a middle school in Vienna’s 21st district.
What exactly does your current position involve?
As a qualified teacher and joint form teacher of a third-year class at a middle school my duties include teaching, preparing and reviewing physics and German lessons for all third-year classes, and marking classwork and homework. It’s also about fostering good student-teacher and student-parent relationships. There are also planning meetings and administration, and I’m responsible for recording absences, organising trips and preparing the classroom. We work with the children as a team, and on projects related to various topics, like theatre, nature and the environment, sports and career orientation. In between classes, I sometimes have to resolve conflicts or supervise the children during breaks.
As a Teach for Austria fellow I regularly take part in leadership courses, as well as professional development training, workshops and coaching sessions. I stay in close contact with my Teach for Austria trainer, who gives me day-to-day job-related support and regularly sits in on and assesses my lessons to help me respond to my pupils’ needs as effectively as possible.