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Waking up before sunrise each morning to work on his online master’s degree in psychology was a challenge for Gibraltar-based teacher Pablo Hernandez – but one he can reflect on with genuine pride.

Pablo says he enrolled in an online master’s programme with the University of Liverpool because the time was right for him to further his knowledge and enhance his professional development. “It’s provided me with an opportunity to become a much more confident psychology teacher,” he says. “It’s also provided me with the chance to prove to myself that I’m capable of such achievements when I set my mind to it.”

It wasn’t easy to balance the demands of his master’s programme with a young family, a full-time job as a psychology teacher, being secretary of the Gibraltar Teachers’ Association (NASUWT), and fulfilling his after-school teaching commitments.

Pablo knew he needed a strict schedule, so he committed to going to bed early and carved out a two-hour study timeslot, from 5am to 7am every day, before his family woke up.

The impact of his studies, he says, has been significant. “It’s helped directly in my job with the day-to-day delivery of my teaching, being able to dissect the subject matter and explain it to my students. Plus, I’ve had access to the online library.”

Pablo praises his peers on the programme and the support he received from his tutors. He also compares the programme structure favourably with the linear approach he uses with his A-level students. He says: “The model Liverpool uses is a continual assessment approach, with compulsory online discussions and assignments. It’s very mixed, and it’s kept me working for two-and-a-half years. You can’t just sit back and cram at the end.”

Pablo’s hard work paid off: he won a Student of the Year award for his outstanding performance in his master’s programme and a Dissertation of the Year award for his dissertation on burnout among teachers in Gibraltar. He crowned his success by travelling to Liverpool with his wife, daughters, parents and in-laws to collect the awards – and to take part in the official graduation ceremony where he received his master’s degree.

“I am very proud to have gone back into education and obtained a distinction at master’s level,” he said. “It has been very tough but equally worth the time and effort”.

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