Beth Restor

Beth Restor is a graduate of our BA (Hons) English Language and English Language Teaching degree, and now works for the US Department of the Air Force as a School Liaison Program Manager as well studying for a Master’s degree in Communicative Disorders.

Beth Restor


What have you been doing since graduating from ARU?

I have done quite a few things! I graduated on 16 October 2019, then two days later I hopped on a plane and flew to New Mexico in the US, to begin working with first-generation students from low-income families that didn't have a parent that went to university or experience with higher education. I was their advisor and guided them through their high school experience. We did everything we could to support them to do their best in high school and then move on to university.

I did that until 2022, promoted to Program Coordinator within that time, then hopped on another plane over to Germany, where I’m now working as a school liaison program manager (SLPM) for the U.S. Department of the Air Force. I'm supporting military students here in Germany, advocating for their education and trying to help make that experience as seamless for them as possible, regardless of how many times they move throughout their educational career.

While doing all of that I also completed my second bachelor's degree in speech therapy, an associate degree in speech therapy assistance, and I'm currently working on my master’s degree in speech therapy. So that's where I'm headed next with my career.

What were your early experiences of education like, before ARU?

I'm from a village called East Harling in Norfolk, near Attleborough, and I went to the high school in Old Buckenham. Unfortunately - and what became a very integral part of my journey - I wasn't able to finish high school. I developed acute agoraphobia when I was 16 and I couldn't leave my house. It made me physically ill to walk out of my front door and took me six very difficult months to get to the point where I was even able to get into a car or back on a train again.

So, of course, I took that year off, didn't take any GCSE's, then went to City College in Norwich to do retake my GCSE year. I could only choose 5 subjects compared to however many I was taking originally, and I took them in a very different environment. The students had such a mix of abilities and reasons why they were there, which made it a really different experience for me, but I loved it, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to go to City College because it has been a huge part of why I'm sat here now.

Beth Restor


After suffering from agoraphobia, moving to New Mexico must have been a challenge. How did you deal with that?

It was very, very different. It was my first time living in the US and so not only did I have all the US cultural elements to grapple with, but a lot of Hispanic culture as well, which I'd never interacted with before. Honestly, for the first two years I really struggled to find the good in living there.

It was a very small town - how you imagine (from the movies) the small US towns to be. Everyone knew everyone. If I went into the local sandwich shop everyone knew me (although it's not hard to know the random Brit that walks into your café)! I would go into the coffee shops and get to know all the locals. Friday nights they had football games at the high school, and that's where you'd all go to meet up and spend time with each other.

So, I had to learn a lot, but I will say, I was very, very lucky to have amazing people around me, like my coworkers, who were willing to teach me. I got to understand that where people come from, the importance of culture as part of their identity, really drives them through the choices they make. And as far as the US culture went, once I lost my expectations, I just leaned into it. It was fun, different, and it did feel like a movie a lot of the time (especially the drive-in movies).

Did you always know that you would go to university and if not, what changed your mind?

I always knew. That was never a question. The question was always “what will I do at university?”. Like any teenager, I changed my mind a billion times. I trained in musical theatre until I was 16, so until then, I was dead set on being a performer.

Then I realised I needed something else and knew I liked helping people, so I thought I would go into the medical field. Before I thought of going to ARU, I’d been picked up to study occupational therapy. My younger brother was starved of oxygen at birth and so developed brain damage, meaning he had some significant disabilities - quadriplegic cerebral palsy, epilepsy, microcephaly… so, essentially, I grew up with a sibling that required 24/7 care. I slept nights in hospitals, spent time with him in hospices and I was always around physiotherapists and doctors growing up. Along with my parents, they’re the kind of people that raised me and influenced me. So I knew that I wanted to help people.

So that's what I set my mind on next, but I really struggled with my science classes at A-level and remember thinking “I don't know if this is a good idea. Should I do it?” Then people reminded me “Beth, you’re really good at standing up and talking, good at leading, and good at writing. Those are all your skills. Why don’t you just do an English degree?”

It had never occurred to me I could just do something I was good at! I just thought I had to do what was expected of me. So I went through the clearing process, ended up starting at ARU, and that's how my journey there began.

Beth Restor receiving her graduation certificate


What inspired you to do what you do now?

I’ve always been really inspired by the experiences I’ve had, the series of events that have happened throughout my life and the people that I've interacted with. I knew I wanted to help people based on my experiences growing up with a disabled younger brother and, through my background in performing, I knew I could get up and talk in front of a room of people, be professional and come across in a way that is crucial to the work I do.

But one of the biggest reasons I do what I do is the mentors I had when I retook my GCSEs, who guided me through that time. My science teacher at City College, Faye Ikin, is an incredible person. I was so concerned that I’d missed one or two days of school because the year before I had managed five days the entire school year. I remember sitting in her office, and she had this calendar up on the wall, and said “Ok, how many days did you go to school last year?” I told her “Five”. She said: “How many days have you been in school this year?” I said “30”. She said. “Ok, so you’ve already done six times more school than you did last year!” Little things like that have stuck with me, and I knew I wanted to be able to do that for someone else.

My end career goal is speech therapy and that's still what I'm working on. But I wanted to take every opportunity while studying and moving around, to help people and use my experiences to support and uplift the communities I get to be a small part of. Especially within education, because it's hard. After living in New Mexico, I know that education isn't the same experience for everyone, and not everyone is given the same opportunities to access and pay for it. I do believe that it doesn't matter who you are, if you have a goal you can achieve it, but we also need to acknowledge that some people have it easier, and trying to give everyone the same opportunities to reach those goals has become really integral to my advocacy work.

What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your course at ARU?

It's really hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think it was the importance of being around people that had the same common goal but different reasons and experiences as to why they were there. With the English degree, and Anglia Ruskin in general, there was always such a variety of people. We had people of all ages, all backgrounds, and so many different countries. During our big class times, people would bring in snacks or foods from their countries and and we would all try different things and talk about our cultures – man, it was great.

I still keep in touch with my lecturers. Sarah Etchells, oh my gosh, I love that woman so much! She was like my uni Mum. She was my go-to for advice, as well as my dissertation supervisor. Vahid Parvaresh and I follow each other on LinkedIn and are always liking each other’s posts. Honestly, if I was in the right place at the right time and could work in the English department at Anglia Ruskin, I think I would do it in a heartbeat. The team there are great, and the teachers are great. Everyone’s so cool.

I loved how everyone just treated me like an adult. I’ve done a bachelor's degree in the US as well, so I've been able to compare and contrast the two experiences. Calling all of my lecturers by their first name doesn't seem like a big deal, but in the States it’s a no-no. You don’t do that. It’s much more formal. I can't speak for other universities in the UK, but I feel ARU was very inclusive and collaborative. The teachers were our peers, and there to give us the information we needed and help us apply it. I'm just so thankful to have had that ability to be human and make mistakes, have real conversations with people, and really get to know all my professors and lecturers.

Beth Restor


Which aspects of the course most helped your career development, and why?

That’s an easy one for me with the degree that I did, because the English language teaching part of it had built-in career development. We were learning through our lecturers how to teach – with an emphasis on students learning English as a second language (ESL). You have to find new and creative ways to be engaging because you can't just rely on on the words that you say.

And doing research - oh my gosh, I complained so much about having to do research every year of my degree but thank goodness we did because knowing how to manage and reference data has helped me no end. I do it daily in this job. I have to collate data and present it to commanders, to schools, to the Department of the Air Force to assess trends and practices and use it to reinforce the changes I’d like to see locally or nationally.

I also don't think I necessarily would have gotten back into the idea of speech therapy if I hadn't had done an English language degree either, because we started learning about how the brain acquires language and how, if you damage it in certain areas, it affects your language. That aspect of linguistics is so interesting to me. I always recommend to students that now I mentor that, if they’re agonizing over what they want to do but they know they have a subject they’re good at, take a chance and pick it, because I guarantee they will learn something from it that will end up being their ‘thing’. For me, I thought that was going to be teaching, but it ended up being educational advocacy and speech therapy. Sometimes people think “Oh, an English degree? What are you going to do with that?’ but actually, quite a lot, because there are so many offshoots from it.

What was your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge, and what did you learn about it that you didn’t know before?

Because I'm from Norfolk, I wasn’t totally unaware of Cambridge before I went there. Obviously the history is amazing. I think I was very spoiled, and I didn't realise just how amazing that aspect of Cambridge is.

When I was there, I joined Cambridge University Air Squadron through the RAF and spent two years learning to lead, manage and even fly with them. I got an insight into the differences between ARU and University of Cambridge, and what that experience looks like for those students. I certainly did not know anything about Cambridge University culture before going into it, so that was super interesting.

In a shallower vein, I really like the coffee shops in Cambridge – I’m a sucker for good coffee and really enjoyed the ‘foodie’ scene, there’s a lot of that in Cambridge. I miss it.

Beth Restor in graduation gown


What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

The first one would be that perfection is overrated. I spent so much of my educational career feeling I had to be the best, otherwise I wasn’t learning or achieving anything. So I would tell myself to take some of the pressure off, and absorb what I was learning outside of the assignments and classroom. It’s OK to not be perfect if it means you get to have other experiences - and fun too.

Another really big thing that I’ve learned - so much that it’s tattooed on my arm - is to persevere. Going through everything I went through and being able to sit here today, I never would have thought that that those two points would meet. When I interviewed for the Cambridge University Air Squadron, they asked all these questions about what extracurricular activities I did and what academic awards I’d won. I remember sitting there thinking I had nothing to contribute. I told them I couldn’t do those things as a child - I had to help care for my brother. I remember feeling so defeated because I felt I wasn’t meeting their expectations, but remember so clearly, one of the gentlemen leant forward and said, “Do you know what? sometimes perseverance is all you need.” And that’s always stuck with me.

There’s a lot that can be said about your ability to overcome adversity, and persevere through hard times. I’ve learned to always take the opportunity to find the positives in those knockbacks, see what you’ve learned from them and where that can take you next. Because all of those ‘negatives’ have directed me to where I am now.

What are you currently working on, both at work and outside it?

The big focus for me right now in my job is working on getting good understanding of special education processes for our students who need that support. We’re making sure we develop a cohesive plan with our various entities. There’s a lot of moving cogs in the military, so we have to make sure we understand everyone’s perspective on how to support students, what we can do from our seat and what we can provide to families, parents, and schools to assist them moving forward. Special education is a big-ticket item for me in my current position and something I'm passionate about.

Outside of work, I am currently doing my Master’s in speech pathology online, back in New Mexico. Very part-time thankfully because I’m working all day then in classes in the evening. It’s a lot of work but I’m really enjoying it. It's been so helpful because a lot of a speech therapy degree is special educational law and understanding the workings of schools. So it bleeds together really well with my day job.

I'm also taking my first trip to Berlin in a couple of weeks, which I'm really excited about! I love history. I've already told my friend to plan to be visiting historical points of interest and museums the entire weekend!

Where Now?

BA (Hons) English Language and Communication

Whether you want to use your communication skills in the media or in the boardroom, gain a thorough understanding of how the English language works.

Cambridge University Air Squadron

RAF Volunteer Reserve unit for students from Cambridge University, University of East Anglia, Anglia Ruskin University, and the University of Essex.

Meet Charlotte

Charlotte is an English Language Teacher and a graduate of our BA (Hons) English Language and English Language Teaching. She has taught English at an American international school in Taiwan and is studying towards her PGCE and QTS.