| Case Studies

From virologist to covid career changer

Changed career: 2021

Region: East of England

Subject: Chemistry

Danielle studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge in the mid 1990s and focused her PhD on how viruses replicate. She then spent 20 years as an Operations Director in the Life Science sector. During the covid pandemic, Danielle decided to change career into teaching – aiming to use her skills and experience to spark an interest in science in young people.

Teaching had been in the back of my mind for a few years, so when my older daughter started secondary school, I joined the local governing body. I was inspired by brilliant people passionate about education and young people’s wellbeing. 

After 20 years as an Operations Director in the Life Science sector, I wondered if I could use my skills and experience in a different way. Could I spark an interest in science in young people that could lead to a fulfilling career like I’ve enjoyed? 

In the mid 1990s I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and stayed to do a PhD. I looked at how viruses replicate – not realising that 20 years later the whole world would be wondering how viruses make more copies of themselves.

Choosing my training route 

I chose the School Centered Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) route as I did a lot of rigorous academic work in my PhD and wanted to maximise my time doing. Both are important but getting into school early really mattered to me as I could learn more about theory whilst putting it into practice. 

I am currently on my second placement and training with Cambridge Teaching Schools Network. I asked to be based in rural Suffolk schools as there will be fewer people with career experience like mine – therefore I could make more of a difference. 

Knowing there was a shortage of chemists, and that the bursary was higher, I chose to specialise in chemistry. 

Flexibility was of great importance to me as my career change would have an impact on my partner and children. Now Teach helped me to arrange 3 days in school, 1 day working from home and 1 day core training.

Training providers that are able to offer flexibility are hugely attractive to experienced professionals looking to move into a second career.


Using my experience in the classroom 

When teaching cell biology to 30 students in Year 9, I used my professional experience and understanding of the topic to bring the lesson alive. I chose lots of pictures of cells taken with different microscopes to visually demonstrate what they needed to know. 

My thought process was also to use real-life examples that the pupils could recognise through their everyday life – linking to the world of coronavirus and seeing similar images through the BBC.

The children’s faces tell me if they’re learning. If you can build trust and credibility – they tell you when they don’t understand. How fabulous that they’re not pretending, it’s refreshing to be with people who are honest.

How Now Teach has helped me 

I was drawn to the Now Teach website after seeing an advert in the first week of lockdown. I wanted to make a difference and thought that my skills could transfer into the world of teaching.

From the testimonials I read, I thought ‘these people and I have so much in common.’ I really related to the stories that others had shared.

I signed up, was contacted instantly and then attended an introduction session. Now Teach were amazing at holding my hand through the application process – especially at helping me jump through the hoops to verify my academic qualifications dating back to the 1990s.  

My Recruitment Advisor at Now Teach saved me time by signposting the steps and putting me in touch with key people at SCITTs that I could speak to. It was extremely valuable having an advisor and the opportunity to speak to training providers beforehand. 

With Now Teach, there are a hundred other people doing it at the same time as you. My training year has a WhatsApp group and it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it. Funnily enough, there is a Now Teacher at my daughter’s school – who has given me many words of wisdom. 

The evening talks Now Teach host are also brilliant – I could have listened to Tom Bennett all night. Speakers of that calibre are excellent and hopefully in the future we will have in-person events!  

It’s reassuring to know that I have access to Now Teach to support me through this training year and beyond: I place enormous value being part of this network of like-minded career changers intent on making a difference to secondary education.

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