Encouraging Creativity through Media Studies
Holly Susanne Stephens
Teacher of English and Subject Lead for Media, Head of Year 7 (Interim)
Holly Susanne Stephens joined the British School of Bucharest as a Media Lead and teacher of English in 2021. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology and English with Dual Honours at the University of Keele, before continuing with a PGCE at the University of Nottingham.
Having a great passion for creativity, Holly Susanne moved swiftly across to teaching Media, Creative Media Production and Film at GCSE, BTEC, A-Level and IB at both British and International settings from the Middle East to the USA. She feels very fortunate to join BSB to build a new Media qualification in Romania where staff and students can thrive.
Sum up your role at BSB.
At BSB I have been active in my role outside of the classroom as well as in it. I lead the Model United Nations Club for Key Stage 4 & 5 and have plans to add Media Creativity to Key Stage 2 through a Magazine Club. Being the lead for Media, I am the support for all things camera and filming in School, whether this be for GCSE Drama, Year 6 Film Festival submissions or in-class presentations.
What inspired you to join us?
Having left the Middle East during covid, teaching online just wasn’t the same as integrating with students in class. After a short time in the UK, I realised how much I missed the international community and the values of living overseas. Coming to the beautiful BSB campus for the first time only made me more interested to meet our students and explore their ideas, perspectives and values. Romania was tempting for someone like me who loves hiking, trekking, snowboarding, camping and biking. There is so much to do in the holidays!
What is your teaching philosophy?
As an advocate for social justice, I believe that every child is able to achieve their own excellence given tailored support, challenge and guidance. This underpins everything I do as, so often in Media, a student who excels in my classroom may struggle elsewhere. We speak our own kind of language here. I also feel passionately about mental health and well-being; how can I expect students to engage with Shakespeare without making sure they are safe, cared for and nurtured within our classrooms and our campus.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying the British Curriculum at BSB?
The British curriculum offers students a real challenge, letting them rise to achieve outstanding grades. The variety in the curriculum is inspiring. In my classroom this year, I’ve taught: magazines; video games to Key Stage 3; Shakespeare; novels from Zephaniah to William Golding; poetry from Blake, Larkin, Wordsworth and Carol Ann Duffy; Gothic writing; newspapers and everything in between. This is unparalleled in other curriculums and, at BSB, we add in further CCAs to support our students growth even further through their interests and passions.
What do you think are some of the advantages of studying A-Levels at BSB?
Well, most obviously, the A-Level in Media Studies is simply not available anywhere else but BSB in Romania. I also feel, as a Year 12 and 13 tutor, our students in Key Stage 5 receive a higher level of care and support, allowing them to grow quickly and demonstrate leadership through clubs or charity work. I think this makes our students really special, not only in their care for our community but global awareness. It also makes them much more appealing to the internationally recognised universities that many of our students choose to attend after graduating from BSB.
Starting this Academic Year, our students can opt for A-Level Media. Why should they take it?
Media is an amazing place to explore yourself and I encourage students to do this. Unlike many other subjects, Media offers students a chance to show off their passions through the coursework phase. At AS this is a magazine product. In Year12, this year, we have had magazines covering: high end couture fashion; gender-free beauty and health; women’s fitness; equestrian pursuits; video games; teen pro-mental health fashion; football apparel and men’s fashion and lifestyle. This variety really is the spice of life in Media. I also love our Media values of resilience, creative risk-taking and playfulness. Students need to plan and complete photoshoots, which requires patience and also a willing model. I’ve been in the chair myself and really enjoyed seeing how my students could lead and organise their ideas to create a great product. Mr. Healy was also involved and looked fantastic.
How do you encourage creativity in your classroom?
My classroom itself is an inspiring place. I’ve thrived in getting a classroom back and thrown myself into making it my cosy, creative little spot. Having two rooms in which to make the Media Suite, I use one as the studio space with a green, black and white screen, cameras and lighting equipment. My teaching space has bookcases, a cosy reading corner with cushions and twinkly lights, inspiring students to develop their lifelong love of reading. A creative person, I also have displays covering most of my walls with student work like masks from Lord of the Flies to magazine products to poems from Book Week. I think this creates a space where students want to challenge their ideas and can easily find inspiration.
How do you plan on engaging BSB students to achieve their full potential?
Students at BSB value challenge and variety in their learning. In every lesson, I like to use a consistent approach to offer students more challenge and encourage all in my class to try and push a little more. Using reading as the backbone of lessons, I encourage students to really analyse what they choose, why they choose it and what patterns they show. Novelty is always engaging and pushes students to explore what they think limits them, such as using the green screen to film Year 8 after making a news broadcast. Learning to film, edit and perform pushed them to redevelop some of their script and produced a much higher quality of work.
How do you communicate with parents? Do you consider they need a particular approach?
I often communicate using email and make the effort to also thank parents when they have supported me, whether in catching up missed work or offering their ideas with a project. I think parents are an invaluable source that I’d like to tap into more. We have such inspiring parents who could inspire across year groups with their experiences from artists to ambassadors. As I move into my second year at BSB, this is an area I would like to explore within our community.
What are you looking forward to in your BSB journey?
Now that we have the wonderful situation of de-zoning and students able to experience more of our campus, I am looking forward to being able to offer CCAs across year groups and even key stages, mixing the experience of Secondary Media into the excitement and enthusiasm of Primary. It will be exciting to begin to create links across departments and combine my core subject of English with Drama, or Media with Business, using the vast knowledge on site and those teachers who inspire me (as well as their classes).
And finally: tell us something unexpected about yourself.
As an outdoors addict, I have a large dog named Duna (after the sand dunes she was born on) who is a rescue dog from the Middle East. Many students will have heard about her or even seen me walking her locally in Voluntari. What they might not know is that between us we surf, kayak, skateboard, kitesurf (rather exciting but not repeated often), hike, camp, snowboard, mountain bike and wild swim. Dogs are woman’s best friend after all and an adventure hound matched my spirit. Not to say that we don’t spend some weekends simply enjoying a quiet park in Bucharest with a cup of coffee!
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