Are baby steps the key to your dream career?
On International Women’s Day, hear from education alumni Ruth Lue-Quee, as she shares her story on how she went from a deputy headteacher on maternity leave, to running her own business and meeting Prince Charles.
Rewind to March 2020, the first lockdown had hit and I, like many, was isolated at home with a young baby. As a primary school deputy headteacher, it has always been my passion to help children learn, develop and grow – a passion that really flourished during my time studying at the University of Wolverhampton.
Therefore, unfortunately (or fortunately however you look at it) for my son, from the moment he was born I was always doing whatever I could to support him – whether it was learning or playtime.
The pandemic and having just given birth to my son, will always be a huge turning point for me in my professional career because it paved the way for a new adventure, an adventure I’m still very much on – with lots of amazing highs and frustrating lows, tough decisions and changes to adapt to. But inspired by my little boy, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
The first five years of a child’s life are the most critical time for their development as it lays down the foundations for their future. As I knew so many parents were also locked down at home and couldn’t access baby groups, toddler classes or school learning in this critical period, I decided to set up a social media account and started sharing ideas and activities to help parents and carers entertain and playfully educate their little ones from new-born babies to children up to eight-years-old at home.
I called the account ‘My Mummy Teacher’ as this is what I was to my son – his mummy teacher and it perfectly encompassed that I was both a mummy and a qualified deputy headteacher. I would go live on my social media account every evening at 8pm and share ideas that parents and carers could do the following day with their little ones. Of course, I did all of this for free as I just wanted to help and began to get some traction in the local press with the headline ‘home-schooling help is at hand’.
Around the same time, I decided to apply for part-time work at my school. Unfortunately, this wasn’t granted and I was left with the option to return part-time but drop back down to a class teacher or return full-time and keep my senior leader position. Having worked incredibly hard to climb the ladder and become deputy headteacher at the age of 27, it just didn’t sit right with me to effectively take a demotion in order to be both the best I could be in my career, and for my son.
I knew there had to be another way, where I could follow my passion, maintain the career point I had earned and work flexibly around my family - and that’s when the idea for ‘My Mummy Teacher’ was born.
I wanted to create something that would empower both parents and professionals to help their children learn through play, but also be adaptable for a wide range of abilities as very few things on the market take into account the individuality, unique starting points and special qualities of each individual child. I spent every spare moment I could writing, proof reading, editing, working alongside a designer to create my branding and website, continuing to build up my social media following and learning all the legal and business side of things I could (that was all completely new to me!)
After almost a year of developing my first product, I had done just that – I created the ‘learning through play’ activity cards and officially launched my business in June 2021.
Since launching, I have sold thousands of ‘learning through play’ cards to parents, carers, professionals, schools, speech and language therapists, educational psychologists and even overseas in countries such as New Zealand, Canada and India too! The business has expanded to include a range of professional and consultancy services that I offer for parents, schools, businesses and brands. We’ve also had reviews and engagement from celebrities such as CBeebies’ Evie Pickerill and Instagram Queen Mrs Hinch is a recent follower.
My Mummy Teacher has been featured in national and local press - print, radio and even TV. Having BBC Midlands Today come into my home to film and showcase my business was something I’ll never forget! Such a wonderful experience and I still can’t quite believe it was me. I love the fact that I get to continue working with children, parents and professionals, knowing I’m making a real difference.
My biggest business highlight of this first year was being invited to showcase my business thanks to the Prince’s Trust to meet HRH Prince Charles. He thought the business was (and I quote) “wonderful” and even took some of the learning through play cards for his grandchildren – a surreal moment indeed and a memory to treasure!
I now do expert comments in the press and was recently invited onto BBC WM as an education expert to talk about a news story, which was another highlight.
For many reasons, lockdown has been a difficult time for us all. But for me, there has been a silver lining as, without it, I would have never been where I am now - owning my own business, working around my son, being on TV, and even meeting royalty.
My biggest takeaway from this is to embrace the direction your life takes you – you never know what’s around the corner but believe in yourself and follow your dreams and passions - you will make it work.
I can’t wait to see how things continue to grow, maybe one day I’ll come back to the University to help support the next generation of educators too. Until then, have a little faith and don’t stop believing.
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