1.8 Making the difference

The OU changes people’s lives. Tutors play an important role in making a difference to our students’ success.

Christine’s story describes how the OU made a difference to her when she was a student and how she is now an OU tutor making a difference to others.

Christine’s story: the student becomes the teacher

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Christine pictured with husband David and mother-in-law Olga

Christine Thelma Newton started her OU degree in 1978 as a way to cope with depression. Over forty years later, graduate-turned-tutor Christine has spent the past decade proudly watching her students achieve their dreams. 

“I started studying an Arts Foundation Course in 1978 after suffering acute depression,” says Christine. “This was suggested by a Methodist Minister friend who had completed a degree with The Open University. It was the start of a surprising journey for me.”

Christine began by studying art history for the first time and went on to explore several modules, including 19th century literature, Shakespeare and poetry.

“I married in 1980 and each year my husband would ask, ‘What are we studying this year?’ My course fees were one of the first things we budgeted for. While studying we went to Florence and Rome together and saw the wonderful paintings, sculpture and architecture.”

The start of something special  

In 1990, after 12 years of part-time study and hard work, Christine collected her degree in a ceremony at Newcastle City Hall, while her parents, mother-in-law and husband watched with pride.

Though Christine was already working as a qualified and experienced nurse, midwife and health visitor, she found a new vocation in teaching childcare at a local college where she used her experience to inspire a new generation of early years practitioners.

In 2010, Christine would receive another recommendation from a colleague that would take her life in a new direction, as she explains:

“An External Examiner who was an Open University tutor suggested I had the ability to write clear feedback to my students. With his support and encouragement, I applied to teach at the OU and would go onto teach K319 Adulthood, Ageing and the Life Course. I still cannot believe I was appointed!”

Supporting the next generation of learners

As an Associate Lecturer with The Open University, Christine teaches and supports OU students from all over the world, a role which she describes as her ‘joy and privilege’. 

“I am grateful for all the opportunities and support from colleagues I have found here. The Open University has helped me work through depression, taught me to appreciate art and architecture, renewed my love of English Literature and provided exciting challenges as a teacher.”

“When we celebrated the 50th Anniversary this year, I do not think anyone was prouder or more thankful than myself.”

In September 2019, Christine returned to the ceremony platform nearly thirty years since she graduated. This time, as part of the procession at the Glasgow ceremony, where she watched and applauded as two of her OU students collected their first-class honours degree.

“The OU provides second chances for individuals to learn and achieve,” says Christine, “and I am proud to be one of the two million students.”

(Reproduced with the kind permission of Christine Thelma Newton)

1.7 What are the rewards of the role?