Head of GCSE, Academic Support Teacher and Director of Studies – Erica Stillwell
Erica read English and Classics at the University of Florida and subsequently gained an MEd in Specific Learning Disabilities from Marymount University; Erica is also a qualified assessor. Before joining MPW she worked with the United States Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer and she has taught in several schools, including working as an Academic Support teacher at Bedford School.
Role at MPW
As the Head of GCSE, I oversee everything having to do with the GCSE School, focusing on the students. I’m responsible for their attendance, progression and enrichment activities.
As an Academic Support teacher, I work with the Head of Academic Support: setting up exam arrangements, meeting the students with labelled difficulties, delivering study skills sessions – we have two hours a day of study skills surgery that I do – and meeting with students for individual support. I’m also a Director of Studies.
Study Skills sessions are sessions to provide students with the foundational skills they need to study, i.e. exam technique, revision, essay writing, note-taking etc. And they’re drop-in sessions so open to all students.
I started teaching in 2000 when I taught at schools in Virginia and Florida. I then joined the Foreign Service for several years, before returning to teaching at a primary school in Hawaii. After Hawaii, I moved to France and then England, and I taught at Bedford School before joining MPW in 2015. I’ve published ‘A Guide to Study Skills’ on Anspear, which is available via the Nimbl App.
The specific role, because what I do at MPW isn’t something that really a lot of schools in England have, which is a dedicated academic support teacher – that’s all I do, I don’t do specific subject teaching, I just get to work with students individually or in groups as I see the necessity for. I get to determine the level of support students need and provide that.
Why Academic Support?
For me working with students who learn differently from other students is kind of like being a detective, because I get to really work with the students individually to pinpoint where they specifically need help – I really feel I get to support the students to a level that they may not be able to get otherwise.
A good deal of students come to us in the sixth form without even having been identified with any learning difficulties of any sorts. A lot of the students have been really frustrated; they haven’t really had much support, if at all, before and it’s such a relief for them to both have an explanation for why they’ve struggled but also to have the support that we’re able to put in place.
It’s a really unique place because every day is completely different, there are no two days that are going to be anything alike. I really like the fact that the individual groups are smaller and a lot more personalised, it’s a lot more tailored to specifically what students need. What I like about MPW so much is that I can really individualise it to the students. We are truly ‘tailored not uniform‘.
I’m American (but also a UK citizen), I’ve been in London since 2015 – I love London and I have no intention of leaving. I have a 14-year-old son and my husband is also American. Outside of school I like to run, I read a lot and I like to travel – I spent two years in Bangladesh whilst working for the Foreign Service.
Tips for Future MPW Students
Come in with an open mind, because it’s going to be very different from where you were at before. We have a lot of students who come to us from boarding schools, but even students who come from day schools are a little bit taken aback by how much independence they are given. Make the most of that but also take all the support that is offered, because even though we do try to build a sense of independence for the students to get them transitioning off to university (even the GCSE students), at the same time there’s so much support on offer at MPW. There’s no reason for anybody to be struggling because the teachers are so open and willing to help, the Directors of Studies are amazing and we have study skills sessions that all students can take advantage of. I do recommend to students to both be ready to be independent but also to ask for help when they need it.