| Case Studies

Going Back to School to Attract More Girls into Stem

Cohort: September 2020 – June 2021  

Region: East of England

Subject: Biology

Eleanor had a long career in the energy and utilities industry before becoming a biology teacher. Her main motivation for returning to the classroom was to inspire the next generation of scientists, particularly young girls, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Changing career during a global pandemic hasn’t been easy but I have learned a lot along the way about my capabilities and limitations. I would advise anyone considering changing career to teaching that you should be up for the challenge, open to starting all over again – and be well organised. I found that, particularly with a small family, I had to learn to manage my time and conflicting priorities, but that it was all worth it.

Female pupils need to see the full range of exciting opportunities out there and not rule them out because of unhelpful stereotypes.

Exploring sustainability through biology

As an identical twin, I have always been scientifically curious and wondered why I was the same as my sister in some ways and yet completely different from her in others. This is why I decided to study Biological Sciences (Genetics) for my undergraduate degree. I then did a Master’s in Sustainable Development: Environmental Management as I wanted to make businesses more environmentally aware.

After completing my studies, I worked for the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance, on sustainability and responsibility issues. I then joined an American oil and gas company to help mitigate their actions. 

My career was very gratifying as I was involved in helping to tackle climate change. However, the pandemic highlighted the need for the public to receive factual scientific knowledge and do some rational thinking around it. For this reason, I decided to retrain as a teacher to help pupils analyse and understand the world around them. 

Encouraging more girls into STEM

I felt this was particularly important for young girls. Working in male-dominated industries made me impassioned about seeing more diversity in the workplace and closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths. Female pupils need to see the full range of exciting opportunities out there and not rule them out because of unhelpful stereotypes such as boys being better at them at maths. 

I had fantastic teachers at school who encouraged me to study Biological Sciences, so I know the significant influence a teacher can have. Science changes the way you look at things from how our food is made to our home appliances. I really promoting this type of curiosity in my pupils. 

I have also been able to bring some of my corporate experience into my ecology lessons by sharing real-life examples from my own work. This has in turn shown my female pupils that they too can rise through the ranks and become successful leaders. 

Balancing teacher training with parenting

While I have enjoyed going back to the classroom after so many years, I have to be honest that my training year wasn’t all smooth sailing. I was worried before I started about how I would be able to complete it as I was in lockdown with only my husband there to help look after our three young kids, but Now Teach were incredibly supportive.

They helped me choose the best training route for me, considering my caring responsibilities, and advised me about the bursary available for teaching science, most of which went on childcare costs when the restrictions were eased. 

What I found most useful was the Now Teach sessions on things like planning and self-management. They complemented the University of Hertfordshire’s lectures really well, and they were all recorded, so I was able to watch them between mealtimes and bathtimes in my house. I have already put some of their advice into practice when lesson planning and organising my schedule.   

Eleanor trained to be a teacher while raising three young children. If you are interested in teaching but worried about the impact it could have on your family life, then check out this blog by Dr Emma Kell for some tips on how to achieve a healthy work-life balance.  

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