Simone knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a teacher, but her route into a career in teaching in Scotland has been completely unique. Originally from South Africa, Simone has lived in many different countries gathering both work and life experience. She is now able to bring all of this knowledge into her Computer Lab at Meldrum Academy where she teaches Business Management to learners, alongside the life skills that they will need to succeed in their own careers.

“From the age of ten, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. This was a great advantage really, as it allowed me to study and observe my own teachers in the class room, and work out what kind of teacher I wanted to be, and how to be the best teacher possible. I also started tutoring, just voluntarily, to develop my skills at a young age.

“My father was my other inspiration, he emphasised education being really important and helped me develop my love for learning.”

Originally from South Africa, Simone explains her own unique journey into becoming a teacher in Scotland:

“I went to school in South Africa during Apartheid education, which meant that at the school I went to, we were all the same race. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became president we had freedom of movement and it gave me opportunities I’d not had before, to go abroad and travel and develop my life experience.

“I went to America to au pair there, and the boy I was looking after, he was blond hair and blue eyes but he said to me one day “I’m part Irish Catholic, part Jewish, part American’ and being mixed race myself it helped me to see that humans are humans, and this little boy was trying to find his own identity in just the same way as I was.

“I also worked as a personal assistant and a secretary, which actually fed directly into one the subjects I ended up teaching – computer typing and administration,, so all really good experience and helped me become a Business Studies teacher here.

“When I returned to South Africa I qualified as a teacher and taught there in secondary schools for seven years, primarily teaching economics, business studies and mathematics.

“Then I moved to Northern Ireland, where I was a learning support teacher for 11 years. But when my daughter decided to go to Scotland for university, my husband and I looked at moving to Scotland to work as well.

Simone used The Flexible Route to become a fully qualified teacher in Scotland:

“I started to look at teaching in Scotland and found that I could study online with The Flexible Route into teaching. This meant that I would start at entry level, but once I got my qualification my previous experience would be recognised. It took me 18 months to get my full qualification through this route.

At Meldrum Academy there were five of us coming in on the flexi route, and so they developed a programme of lunchtime training sessions each week for us which really helped us to bond, and that the other teachers could also dip in and out of, and I really enjoyed learning that way.

In addition to that I also had a one-to-one mentor, a Principal Teacher and direct support from the Depute Head teacher, and they observed my lessons and provided feedback. It was really useful to have feedback not just from those who were subject experts, but also from a more general teaching perspective as there’s always room to learn and develop, and it also gave them the opportunity to learn from me, and see what I was able to bring to the school.

Working at Meldrum Academy has been a positive experience from the beginning, with the rural location bringing added benefits:

From the very start, I was made to feel so welcome at Meldrum Academy, and I’ve been here now in a full-time permanent teaching position for four years. When you come in on The Flexible Route with a foreign qualification there is initially quite a bit of administration required, but the school never made me feel like that was any trouble or burden which I really appreciated. And in the interview, they made it clear that they really valued the different experiences and understanding of a different cultures that I was bringing to the school.

I really love that I’m teaching in Aberdeenshire which is more rural, and I live in Aberdeen city. I really feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds. We have the beauty of the mountains and the outdoor centre, but it’s also not far away from the things that you need.

Most of the students also commute in to the school from the surrounding areas as we have a large catchment area, and as lot of teachers and pupils share this experience it means that most of the extra-curricular activities are scheduled over lunchtime, which we have extended to be able accommodate these, so we have time for lunch and to attend a club. It’s so important that a school is more than just subject learning, it’s about building relationships and resilience.

I’m currently teaching Business Management which I love as it relates directly to the world of work. We’ve been able to partner with a nearby National Trust property, Haddo House as part of the course as well. We’ve arranged visits to the property to learn about understand how a charity works and how it runs as a business.

Teaching gives Simone the opportunity to enjoy a range of different interests, and the reward of seeing learners develop and flourish:

What attracted me to teaching as all aspects of me/my interests can be utilised. So even though I teach Business Management, I can also contribute with my other interests and so I participate in the drama group and the poetry group as well. I’m passionate about the environment and so I’m also able to share that with others in a way that’s not subject based.

Watching the children move through the school, from S1 through to S6, and see them develop is so rewarding. I particularly love seeing those ‘lightbulb moments’ when everything just clicks! For me that is a real privilege to see them change, and see their confidence develop.

I also gives me the opportunity to be a role model to the students. For example, I decide to take part in a beauty pageant, and they supported me and voted for me, they helped me with my look and with my walk – and I won ‘Mrs Charity’!

It was a lot of fun and it was something that we could reflect on, and I could show them that age and size doesn’t matter. That I’m willing to push myself, and I want them to push themselves too, but I’m not going to ask them to do something I wouldn’t do myself.

I was able to show them that things don’t always go to plan, things go wrong, but that there are always positives to come out of it, and that even if you have setback, you can work together to overcome it.

Simone shares what being a teacher has taught her:

I think that there’s a problem with perfection that we all have, and there’s a lot of pressure on people to be perfect. But I’ve been able to learn that being full involved and engaged with the kids is more important than being perfect.

Simone has this advice for anyone considering a career in teaching:

There’s no one right way to get into teaching. There are so many different routes. And that actually it can be really valuable to have other career experience and be able to bring those life and work experiences into the role.

If you have an administration, computing or scientific background you can explain how what you are teaching connects to these careers in the workplace.

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