A late career-changer, BCS scholar Jeni Reece was 44 when she applied for ITT. She’s now teaching in the school that she also trained in, and can’t imagine working anywhere else.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a late career changer. I fell out of love with education when I was 15 and dropped out of university after just six weeks. After a series of fortunate job opportunities, I secured a position with an innovative telecoms company and later applied for a role in their engineering department. It fascinated me, and the opportunity to develop my skills as a remote telecoms engineer led me to the path I’m on now. I worked with some skilled, intelligent and forward-thinking people who taught and developed my love for cyber security, intrusion detection and network management among other things.
What motivated you to make the move into teaching?
As I began my own family, I turned to supporting my children to use technology - and volunteering in a local school cemented my decision to train to teach. I studied a degree online while also working full time. It was a labour of love but with perseverance, late nights, early mornings and copious amounts of coffee, I graduated with first-class honours.
Fast forward a few years, I left my job to work in a primary school. I then secured a job as data manager in a local secondary school where they were keen to support my development and gave me a student coaching role initially in mathematics. I knew that it was the wrong subject for me and after a conversation with my line manager, I was offered a small group of year 11 students to teach ECDL.
I was supported through my application for ITT and my BCS scholarship application. I trained in the same school my children attend and I’m still there now - and I love it. Everyone is so supportive, no day is the same, and you never quite know what to expect!
It is challenging - the budget for technology in schools is stretched, and I know I’m no longer at the forefront of cutting-edge developments, but this is where BCS has been a fantastic support. Being able to attend webinars, meetings and presentations from industry experts means I’m able to keep in touch with advancements and I can share my learning with my students.
How has the BCS scholarship helped?
It goes without saying the financial support was a weight off my mind, allowing me to fully focus on my training and development. The ITT and PGCE are tough, alongside teaching four days a week, but knowing I could feed my family and pay my mortgage was fantastic. During those moments of doubt when I was questioning every decision I’d ever made, little parcels of BCS love would arrive in the post and brighten my day.
Having access to CAS meetings, the BCS website, regular webinars and a mentor if needed has meant I felt supported and able to upskill, enhance my own knowledge and support my students from KS3 right up to my A level computer science group. I can’t thank BCS enough for the opportunities for professional development, the support and their time in furthering my career.
How did you find teaching during the pandemic?
My ITT course moved online after just six months of training which opened the door to being able to build my own training and enhance my computing skills. I made use of BCS material, CAS meetings online, and Isaac Computing. Missing four months of classroom exposure meant that the initial week of return in September was challenging, but it was equally challenging for the students after so long away. We worked through the early weeks together and have a strong bond because of it.
Any advice you’d give to someone thinking about a career in teaching?
My one piece of advice would be to work in a school first - either side of the fence, administration/ support or as a TA - to truly understand what’s involved, the highs and the lows. Talk to staff, the students, the senior leaders, and explore every opportunity given to you. Don’t be under any illusions, it is a lot of hard work, long hours; weekends and evenings. However, it is thrilling, a job like no other. Students will never fail to make you laugh, challenge you, and teach you something new each and every day.