Celebrating International Women’s Day

On International Women’s’ Day 2021, we are shining a light on the inspirational women who are leading the way at Aspire 2Be. It is an opportunity to celebrate the talent, strength and expertise that these women bring to Aspire 2Be on a daily basis. 

Beth Evans

My academic life began at my local primary school, and then at Cardiff High School where for my A Levels I studied Geography, English Literature & Welsh. I then went on to study Geography at the University of Southampton, before qualifying as a teacher with Cardiff Met. I taught for 8 years in total mainly in Key Stage 2 and I loved it! I’ve always been interested in gadgets and ICT in my school – ‘Ask Beth” was a common phrase! I love education and tech, and am passionate about lifelong learning, so I decided to leave the classroom and join A2B when my current role became available – it merged my passions for learning and tech and so felt like the right fit for me to develop even further!

I love the variety of my current role, and the problem solving that comes with it – it allows me to think creatively. I also really enjoy working with people, and making their lives easier through the use of tech! As in any role, there are challenges. Timescales can sometimes be tight as we are a small company, but I have good teammates so we always get the job done. – usually with some laughs along the way!

A memorable personal achievement for me was representing Google for Education at the BETT Show in London in 2020 and sharing my experiences and expertise with educators from around the world. I’m also hugely proud of achieving APLS (Apple Professional Learning Specialist) status late last year. I love developing relationships with the clients and schools I work with, inspiring them to embrace change, and then when I revisit them months later seeing the impact of the training and tech – it’s my favourite part of the job.

I’m motivated by an endless curiosity for learning and tech, and I just love helping people, and guiding them to those lightbulb moments where they realise how much easier things can be! I very much believe in ‘having a go’, and  who knows what could happen!

Outside of working life, I love to spend time with family and friends. I love the great outdoors, and being active – particularly the beaches of the Gower. I dabble in some DIY in my house – and when the time comes again, I love to travel!

Jo Underwood

After completing a BA Honours Degree in English Literature, and a PGCE in secondary education, I went on to be a Teacher and School Leader for nearly 20 years.

I have always been passionate about placing wellbeing at the heart of every school and organisation in order to ensure education is inclusive and equitable for all, and I had much success by leading schools in this way. It was this work that brought me to the attention of the Aspire 2Be team. When they got in touch and offered the position of Director at InspireU Global, I saw the opportunity to share my experience and passion on a national and international scale and I couldn’t say no!

I love working with such a diverse range of educational settings and organisations. The people I get to meet and speak to on a daily basis is a privilege. Seeing how so many people are working so hard to make a difference is just wonderful. Being part of a team who are absolutely committed to improving the world for others and supporting one another to do so is amazing.

We all face challenges but it is how we choose to overcome them that is important – said in the words of the wonderful Maya Angelou, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

I am passionate about ensuring that within the world, we give every human being, no matter what their background or circumstance the opportunity to thrive and be happy and successful in their own right. I strongly believe that we need to move towards a society where all people are equal.

My biggest achievement personally would be being a mum. I love watching my children thrive, learn and grow into kind, caring and compassionate human beings. Outside of my children and my role at InspireU, I also enjoy running, reading, drinking coffee and writing.

Kathryn Stevenson

Unlike many of the Aspire 2Be team, my background is not in education but in business. Having completed a degree and a Masters degree, I have since worked for companies such as Tata Steel and Charcroft Electronics in a variety of roles, mainly within Sales and Marketing, and Project Management. I recently joined Aspire 2Be as Sales and Marketing lead – I felt that it was the right time to have a change of direction, and as soon as I met the team, it felt like the perfect fit. I love how passionate everyone is about making a difference within the industry, and how dynamic and driven the team are. 

It’s early days yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying working in an environment where change and development are encouraged, and the One Team ethos is such a positive mentality. Obviously I have a lot to learn but I’m looking forward to getting stuck in! 

Something that is extremely important to me is being a positive role model to my daughters – I am passionate about showing them that opportunities are there to be taken, and they can be anything they want to be. I think the days of women being ‘just’ a mother, or being stigmatized for choosing a career over children, should be long gone. I want to see a generation of strong, independent women who can make choices for themselves and not be punished for it.

When I’m not at work, I am usually doing something active. I play rugby for Seven Sisters RFC and Welsh Deaf, which I am probably too old for now! I am also training for Ironman 70.3, so I’m spending an awful lot of time riding my bike or running at the moment, when really I would much rather be at home with my sausage dogs Betty and Olive.

Rachael Webb

Before joining Aspire 2Be, I was a teacher for 34 years and a headteacher for 18 of those. It was in my role as a Headteacher in Swansea that I met Simon Pridham. We were both recognised for our strengths in the education world; Simon for his passion for technology in learning, and me for my work on Children’ rights and putting wellbeing at the heart of the school’s work. We both sat on the Welsh Government’s Headteacher panel and shared our work across Wales. Simon went on to set up the successful Aspire 2Be with Jeremy Stephens and so last year I joined the One Team and helped to set up InspireU.

All the schools I worked in were very different, but what was successful in each of them was my Being Well programme, which is built on Children’s rights and human principles.

After devoting the last 34 years to my work within schools, I now really enjoy the opportunity to spend time developing and creating programmes and resources like the Being Well programme that I am passionate about, but never had the time to do as a Headteacher. I thoroughly enjoy being able to support other schools and I am enjoying learning new skills with the help of the Aspire 2Be team and my lovely partner Jo.

A big challenge of my role is how different the business word is to working in schools. It can be frustrating at times, and of course everything is far more challenging during lockdown. Not being able to see and share challenges and ideas with colleagues has been quite difficult. However, the role itself is fantastic as it allows me to be creative, which I really enjoy. A particularly rewarding part of the job is creating visuals to help children and others understand Children’s rights, which alongside human principles, is a huge passion of mine. Being part of a system that helps to shape a future generation of people who are kind, respectful and who understand each other is a real privilege.

Outside of work I have a number of hobbies, including walking, climbing, netball and painting. My biggest achievement (and climb!) was Kilimanjaro for UNICEF. It was amazing! I love climbing mountains, and to incorporate my climbs with fundraising makes it even more rewarding. I met the children in the schools at the base of the mountain and we put clean water, taps and toilets in the schools. My pupils were involved in my mountain climbing fundraising journeys which positively impacted on my work on developing social activism in schools. 

Sophie Yates

After graduating with a graphic design degree, I went straight into an internship at a Swansea design agency. I worked there for 5 years moving up the ranks, but after that time I felt that I needed a new challenge. That’s when I joined Aspire 2Be. 

My skill set has had to evolve since joining A2B, from being primarily a print designer to working on all things digital, from websites to apps. Although the role of designer is much the same, the responsibilities and role differs when you’re the only in-house designer as opposed to working amongst a whole design team. I most enjoy being the A2B brand gatekeeper and enforcer, basically bossing everyone around. That being said, the team isn’t too bad either!

A major challenge of my role is ensuring brand consistency – this can be tricky within a team of people working across multiple projects all at once. The constant learning curve of digital products and design is always an ongoing challenge too.

What really motivates me is learning new things and then using them to solve a problem – or usually the other way around as is more often the case! I’m passionate about good, clean, functional design, and not designing or redesigning something for the sake of it. And dogs! When I’m not at work, you’ll find me strolling with my dog, keeping chickens, baking massive cakes, and harbouring dreams of being a farmer.

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