Graduation Tales | Joanne used teaching experience to pursue dream career with police

Graduate Joanne Lewis at her graduation at the ICC Wales in Newport

Last week, the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport saw thousands of our graduates cross the stage in their cap and gown. To celebrate, we are sharing the stories of some of our inspirational students.

University of South Wales (USW) graduate Joanne Lewis has spoken about her decision to take a leap of faith and follow her dreams to become a police officer after 15 years working in education.

Joanne, 39, from Rhymney, had considered joining the police after leaving school, but her life took a different direction, and she began working as a teaching assistant for children with special educational needs. However, years later, once her own children had grown up, Joanne felt it was the right time to take the plunge and change her career direction.

“My children are adults now, and I thought, well, it's now or never”, said Joanne.

She began studying BSc (Hons) Professional Policing at USW in September 2019, and in her second year began volunteering as a Special Constable alongside her studies.

“I joined Gwent Police as a Special Constable to gain some insight into what policing is really like, because it’s one thing seeing it on the TV, or reading about it on paper, but in reality it's different”, said Joanne.

Joanne explained how her experience in the classroom helped her when she was out policing in the community.

“As a teaching assistant, I found that if you treat people with respect, you've got more chance of cooperation. If you go in at a million miles an hour, you get people’s backs up straightaway, and that’s when situations escalate. So, as a Special Constable, I use that experience, and make sure I talk to people respectfully and explain why I'm doing something, even if I’m just asking people to move along in the street.

“I enjoy neighbourhood policing, going out and talking to the community, especially young people. It’s about getting that balance right, so they listen to you – and I think my school background has helped me with that.”

The combination of studying at USW and volunteering as a Special Constable, Joanne said, was an effective way to learn more about the day job and everything it would involve.

“For me, being a Special has definitely helped me with my university journey. What you learn in university you can then use on the job, and vice versa.

“At USW we studied a range of modules – roads policing, community policing, law, cybercrime, and more. Most of my lecturers were ex-police officers, so I think that really helped me as they had a personal insight into the job. I liked hearing about the real-life scenarios they had encountered."

Joanne graduated last week with a first-class honours degree, and celebrated on the day with friends and family.

“I’m the first one in my family to graduate, so it will be nice to have the first graduation photo up in the house!”, said Joanne. 

“I just can't believe how quick three years have gone – it doesn’t feel real!”

Training for a new career is something Joanne would recommend to anyone. 

“For me, one day when I’m on my deathbed, I didn’t want to think: ‘What if? What if I’d just gone for it?’”

“If someone was considering a career change, I would tell them to go for it and embrace it, because then at least you can say, well, I gave it a go! Personally, I haven’t regretted one minute of giving up my job and taking this new direction.”