Our Tutors

The College of Progressive Education School of Childcare provides quality childcare training for students wishing to pursue a career in the field of childcare and Early Years Education. Established in 1986 as The School of Practical Childcare, we were one of the first educational establishments to offer childcare courses in an era where no qualifications for working in this sector were required. With the ever changing climate in the Early Years sector and the increased need for qualified practitioners, The College of Progressive Education offers learners the opportunity to gain the necessary QQI qualification in childcare required under legislation to work in the Early Years sector. All of our tutors are highly qualified in their respective fields with many of them qualified to graduate level and beyond. They are committed individuals who go beyond merely teaching our childcare courses. They are positive and encouraging and inspire confidence and passion in their students. We look forward to supporting you in your career in the Childcare sector.

Karen Higgins,
Academic Director of Childcare

Karen Higgins, Academic Director of Childcare

Karen has over nineteen years’ experience in the delivery and management of first class Childcare courses in education and training. This includes an in-depth, practical knowledge of the Psychology of child development, Management of Early Years Settings (from start-up to operational), Childcare/Montessori Teaching, Lecturing\Teacher Training, curriculum development in-line with industry standards and organisation and management of Early Years training programmes.

Karen has extensive experience navigating, and working with, industry standards bodies. She has completed eight years study in Montessori Pedagogy and Developmental Psychology, leading to an Honours degree in Psychology, with a primary focus on child development. She holds a post-graduate certificate and post-graduate diploma in Professional Studies in Education. Karen is in her final year of study for a Master’s Degree in Education.

In addition to the above, Karen was also the Chairperson of The Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP) – Dublin Branch (2013 – 2014) and is still actively involved with the association. ACP is an Association striving to be the representative body of childhood professionals in Ireland. She is a member of the Sub-Training Group of the Dublin City Childcare Committee (DCCCP). The DCCC Sub-Training Group’s remit is to monitor sector progress in relation to Childcare courses/Early Years quality training. In addition, Karen is a member of the Early Childhood Research group, a sub group of the Children’s Research Network for Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Dr. Mary O’Kane

Mary originally studied Psychology in the UK, before moving into the area of Early Childhood Education while undertaking her MPhil at Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland. This project investigated the differences between the quality and experiences in ECCE services before and after the implementation of the Preschool Regulations. She was conferred in 2008 with a Doctorate in Education by Dublin Institute of Technology. Her PhD thesis focused on the issues that children in Ireland, and their families, face during the period of transition from preschool to school, and this has become her specialist area. She then went on to complete an 18 month post-doctorate research project with the Centre for Social and Educational Research in DIT, investigating this transition in a cluster of DEIS preschool and primary settings.

She currently teaches on the part-time Honours BA in Early Childhood in NUI Maynooth, and is an Associate Lecturer in Psychology with the Open University. She is a Guest Lecturer, Dublin Institute of Technology for the International Masters in Early Childhood Education and Care, and the MA in Child, Family and Community Studies, and is External Examiner for the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies, Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Patricia Pleass

Patricia is a professional Training Consultant, Tutor and Preschool owner with almost twenty years industry experience in Training and Development. She started her career working in front-line customer service with Aer Lingus, progressing to senior trainer in the Aer Lingus Training Centre where she delivered quality customer care and safety training to front-line staff. While working in Aer Lingus Patricia studied the Pre- Primary and Primary Montessori Method of education. Having realised a love for this method of teaching young children, and after giving birth to twins, Patricia opened a Montessori school in Stillorgan.

Due to the rapid growth and change in the ECCE sector, Patricia commenced studying a degree in Early Childhood, Teaching and Learning in 2011 from which she graduated in Spring of 2014. Patricia joined the tutoring staff of the College of Progressive Education in 2011 and really enjoys teaching and supporting students as they undertake their Early Childhood Courses.

Criona Blackburn

Criona has been an education professional for over twenty years. Her qualifications include an MA in Early Childhood Education (First Class Hons) with the University of Sheffield, BA in History and English with first year psychology (Hons), a Higher Diploma in Education with UCD and many other accredited courses relevant to the childcare sector On graduating from UCD, Criona taught for over eight years at secondary level to both adolescence and mature students in both the private and public education system. During this time Criona also took on the role of Co-ordinator of post Leaving Certificate courses, while completing a Diploma in Montessori Education with St. Nicholas’s Montessori College.

In 2006 Criona established her own Montessori school which facilitates the preschool education of over 20 children each year. Criona began tutoring on childcare courses in 2010 and continues to tutor and lecture to date. Criona currently tutors on the Early Childhood Care and Education FETAC level 6 with Montessori for the College of Progressive Education. She is also the course leader for the Personal, Social and Emotional Development module on the BA in Early Childhood Studies with London Metropolitan University where she lectures on both the full and part time courses. In addition Criona facilitates many workshops in a variety of fields to support practitioners in their continuing professional development.

Grainne Schmitz

Grainne Schmitz is a Tutor in our Montessori and Childcare Department, where she has worked since 2011. Grainne co-ordinates and delivers our Childcare courses – Early Childhood care and Education with Montessori Level 6 Course, for Full-Time, Part-Time and Distance Learning students. Grainne has extensive experience in the Early Childhood and Montessori sector. She qualified as a Montessori teacher in 1996. From 1999-2005, Grainne established and ran a successful chain of Montessori and Childcare centres, catering for over 140 children and employing over 40 staff. Grainne is currently studying for her BA in Early Childhood Care and Education. Grainne is passionate about educating parents, students and stakeholders regarding the importance of Early Childhood Care and Education, and she continues to both Tutor and work in a pre-school setting.

Aibhin Dunne

Aibhin Dunne is another highly-valued Tutor with the Montessori and Childcare Department of the College of Progressive Education. Aibhin holds a 1st Class Honors Degree in Applied Chemistry since 1998 and in 2005 and, following the birth of her 2nd child, Aibhin completed a Diploma in Montessori Method of Education (3 -6yrs) with Distinction with the College of Progressive Education. Following this Childcare course, Aibhin then obtained both an Advanced Certificate in Childcare and a Certificate in Training and Continuing Adult Education with University of Maynooth to enable her to teach and spread her passion about the Montessori Method of Education.

Aibhin has been tutoring Full time, Part time and Distance Learning Courses in Montessori Education since 2010. Aibhin likes to keep her finger on the pulse in the Childcare sector, and is passionate about the Montessori Method of Education. She is constantly involved with, and contributing to, developments in the Early Years Childcare Sector within Ireland today..