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Jessie Mytum-Smithson 

Action Research Lead in Science, St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Catholic College

 

And - Former toy shop owner

Ask for advice from those you admire, take opportunities where you can and do something that scares you once in a while!

What do you do?

I’m a teacher of science for students aged 11-19 years old. My role includes looking at how to include education research in the classroom to improve the quality of teaching in the science department. 

Why did you choose this field?

I am a graduate Colour Chemist but I have not always worked as a teacher. I have worked other jobs including Editorial Assistant for science and engineering journals; carrying out research into ink jet printing on textiles and looking after the day to day running of a laboratory for PhD students. I had also owned a toy shop when the business climate in retail changed and I thought about what I’d do next I realised how I missed working in science and with young people so decided to retrain as a teacher. I had always loved the practical side of my research along with working with undergraduate and postgraduate students and had nearly trained as a teacher before opening my shop. Both my parents had been teachers and my favourite teacher at school was my chemistry teacher so I took inspiration from them and a year later completed my PGCE. 

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I think that my biggest achievement to date has been my year long secondment to STEM Learning where I supported teachers delivering lessons with a Science Capital approach. This project was lead by Professor Louise Archer from UCL. I thoroughly enjoyed working in education research and I have taken this interest further in my current role as Action Research Lead in Science. 

Why do you love working in STEM?

I think that the best thing about teaching is knowing that everyday is different, even if you’re teaching the same lesson the interactions with the students will be different. I love planning lessons to aid understanding of scientific concepts and try to link the learning to experiences students have prior knowledge of so I use lots of contextualised examples in my teaching. 

Best advice for the next generation

I love the idea of inspiring students to take science further than school and hopefully many of my students will go onto have STEM careers. The best advice would be to do something you have a passion for there are lots of jobs out there that require STEM skills so choose something that you have an interest in. Ask for advice from those you admire, take opportunities where you can and do something that scares you once in a while!

Role model 

One of the women I most admire is Stephanie Kwolek who invented poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, better known as Kevlar. I remember studying this as part of my undergraduate degree in Colour Chemistry and being impressed that its use in bullet proof jackets had saved many lives.