Kanayo graduated from Surrey with a BSc in Psychology in 2015. She is Deputy Head of Sixth Form at Edenham High School in Croydon and teaches psychology to 14 to 19-year-olds. She was named as one of our Young Achievers of the Year in the Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Awards 2016.
How did it feel to learn you had won the award?
It felt amazing to be recognised as I only graduated in 2015. I felt really proud although I could have killed my mum as I didn’t know she had nominated me!
What attracted you to choose to study Psychology at Surrey?
I chose Surrey as it was relatively close to home in Croydon but still far enough away to have independence. When I visited, I immediately felt like it was a real community where everyone knew each other and I liked that feeling.
Psychology has been my love since GCSEs. I did well at A Level and knew I had to study it; there was no other choice.
What were the best things about your course?
The best part was being able to conduct your own research and the placement year was amazing and extended my university experience. The staff are also always ready to sacrifice their time to help out their students.
How did your professional training year influence you career?
I spent part of the year in China at a marketing company specialising in property. With the support of my lecturers, I used LinkedIn to connect with companies as at that time I was interested in organisational psychology in a business environment. It developed my confidence to have a presence in the professional world and taught me how to achieve work/life balance. Ultimately, it made me re-evaluate my future and directed me towards a career (teaching) that I didn’t know I wanted!
I came back more mature and ready to handle the final year.
What do you enjoy most about your work and why?
I love it when my students have that light bulb moment when they finally get something. It makes the lessons more fun and engaging. That brings out my passion - I am teaching future doctors, solicitors, other professionals, mums, dads – I am a significant part of their journey and I hope they will remember me as they progress.”
What are the challenges?
Everyone underestimates the workload so you have to ensure you have the right work/life balance. There is also never enough time with the students – I want them to really enjoy the subject but we have to prepare them for exams.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I would love to work at Ofsted and see how it operates. Lots of people panic when they hear Ofsted is coming in but I love having my lessons observed!
I would also like to work in the education sector at government level with the influence to shape policies and direction. I am passionate about curriculum design – one that focuses on the student journey, not just their academic ability. We should be developing well-rounded young people.
What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey?
I was really proud to receive Surrey’s Internationalisation Award for the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at my graduation for my international work. During my time at Surrey, I wrote an academic paper on mental illness following volunteer work at a mental institution in Beijing and travelled to Ghana to teach and support young people, particularly women.
I also really enjoyed being part of the University’s Christian Fellowship and I still go back to campus to visit the group.
What advice would you give to students hoping to work in your field?
Set goals and reach them, but be flexible and ready to change them if necessary. Also remember that the journey is just as important as the destination and don’t be afraid to ask people for advice.