Lecturers on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies – Collaborative course with London Metropolitan University

Denise Flood (College Director and Head of Early Years Department)

Denise Flood, an ardent child protectionist, currently heads The Early Years Department at Portobello Institute, and is also the College Director. She is committed to the care, protection and education of young children belonging to diverse settings, both in Ireland and Internationally. Denise initially trained with the Police (An Garda Siochana) investigating many child protection cases and later in Early childhood education and Montessori pedagogy. She also has a Post graduate Diploma in Child Protection and Welfare from Trinity College Dublin. She has recently completed her Masters in Integrated work with Children and families in the Early Years from Pen Green, Corby, UK. Her interests have taken her to work with orphaned and at risk children in Belarus and India. Denise has facilitated the setting up of two Montessori schools in an orphanage and an urban slum setting in India.

Conor Mellon

A passionate educator, Conor has been connected with Portobello Institute since 2011, initially as part of a BA in Early Years course development team and later as a distance learning Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies programme. His career to date includes extensive experience at primary level, particularly in the areas of early learning and special educational needs; and third level positions, lecturing in diversity and inclusion, sociology, research methods and inequality studies.  He is currently completing the final year of his doctoral thesis at Queen’s University Belfast, exploring discourses around ethos and inclusion in the emerging multi-denominational sector.


Criona Blackburne

Criona’s career in education spans over 25 years.  After graduating from UCD she taught at secondary level for over eight years. Her interest in early childhood education began after she qualified as a Montessori teacher and the arrival of her children. She opened her own Montessori school in 2006 and ambitious to ensure that her preschool provided high quality education and care to young children she has completed a wide range of studies in early childhood which culminated in a first class Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Sheffield. She is commencing their doctorate degree in Early Childhood this October. Criona has been tutoring and lecturing on a range of early childhood courses at level 5, 6 and degree and regularly provides workshops on issues related to the sector.  She brings much grounded experience to her teaching in the classroom for full time learners and is an example in excellent practice for distance learning students. She is professionally committed to the Early Years field. Her key areas of interest are personal social emotional development in the early years, reflective practice, inclusion, transitions, leadership and quality practice.
Graduating initially with a degree in music, he also holds a Masters in Education from the University of Durham, UK. His other interests include running, travelling and choral music.

Marguerita Magennis

Marguerita has wide experience of working in the education and psychology sectors, particularly in the Early Years Education domain.  She is currently completing her second PhD, a Doctoral studies in Education focussing on encouraging reflective practice; her work includes enhancing creative thought process and cognitive development in the early years, particularly using ICT.  She has a Masters in Early Childhood Studies and has a broad range of additional professional qualifications in counselling, psychotherapy and arts based therapy. Marguerita also serves as an Assessor and External Verifier, Authenticator for FETAC, SOLAS (Ireland) and Edexcel and CACHE (UK) in the area of Quality assurance and provision.  She is an excellent addition to the teaching team at Portobello Institute.  Her main areas of interest include Special Educational Needs, Cognitive Development, Early years Pedagogy and Development and she has several publications to her credit.

Katharine Bulbulia

Katharine is an educator as well as a speech and language clinician. She brings enormous diversified field based experience to her teaching at third level education. With an initial training in Montessori pedagogy and practice, she began her education career as a Montessori Directress. She later completed her Degree (Hons) in Clinical language and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Stranmillis University College in Belfast in Early Childhood Studies.  Katherine has been on the teaching team at the Early Years Department at Portobello Institute since 2002 and has an excellent teaching record. Her earlier experience in the special needs sector and course writing has helped her develop additional professional competencies. Her key areas of interest are bi and multi lingual development.

Montessori & Special Needs Tutors

Olga McKiernan

Olga trained with the London Montessori International Centre. After successfully graduating she travelled to Malaysia. In Kuala Lumper she taught in the International Montessori School with children from many nationalities as well as tutoring in the London Montessori Centre. On returning to Ireland in 1995 she joined the Montessori Department of Portobello Institute and has delivered many part-time courses in Portobello centres – Dublin, Navan, Drogheda, Blanchardstown. She is also involved in Montessori Workshops, Distance Learning and Montessori Upskill Courses for the college.  In addition to her tutoring commitments at Portobello Institute she is also part of the Montessori Department at Liberties College, City of Dublin Vocational Educational Committee as a full time Montessori Tutor and on the panel for the Montessori Practical Skills Examinations and Interviewing Board.

Sarah Thornburgh

Sarah initially trained as a chef in DIT obtaining a BA in Culinary Arts, however this was quickly followed by a career change when she worked as a chef of a crèche while doing her Montessori Fetac Level 6 and Supervision in Childcare Level 6.  Once qualified Sarah set about working as a full time Montessori teacher while pursuing a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education through Sheffield University.  In addition to her studies Sarah has first hand experience working with children whilst working as  Nanny and in various Montessori and afterschool roles. She currently runs her own afterschool service “Badger’s Den” based in Swords which she opened in August 2014.