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Retraining to be a teacher

Graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, Irene Somerville recently retrained as a physics teacher.

Physics and Science Teacher, Musselburgh Grammar School, East Lothian

Making the decision to give up a successful career in engineering wasn't easy but I felt l wanted a new challenge.

Teaching has certainly provided me with many new challenges and I have no regrets about making the switch.

Changing aspirations

Prior to teaching I was a mechanical engineer on a high volume electronics production line. A typical day would have involved meetings on the production line, designing new parts and dealing with any quality problems.

After a few years the company began to move production to cheaper countries and it became clear they were no longer investing in their Scottish manufacturing sites.

This started me thinking about my long-term career aspirations and whether engineering could really fulfil those aspirations.

At the same time I saw an advertisement promoting the possibility of retraining as a teacher and that really started me thinking about teaching seriously.

The skills I learned as an engineer including report writing, time management, chairing meetings and effective use of ICT have been invaluable to me as a teacher. 

Having a career outside teaching has meant I am able to share those experiences with the pupils and provide them with a valuable insight into how physics is applied to solve real life problems in industry.

My proudest achievement as an engineer was being part of a team responsible for the design and implementation of a multi million pound robotic test system. This really was science on the cutting edge.

Choosing teaching

My advice to anyone thinking of retraining as a teacher is to make sure they get some experience of being in a school and working with children. By spending some time in the classroom they will be able to find out if teaching really is the career for them.

Before applying to Moray House I worked as a Learning Support Assistant and this convinced me I had the necessary skills to be a good teacher. My main role was supporting pupils with literacy and numeracy in the classroom.

This was my first real experience of being in a classroom since my time as a pupil and provided me with a wonderful insight into the role of a teacher.

I have no regrets about leaving engineering, as teaching has provided me with many challenges and incredible job satisfaction.