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From soldier to maths teacher
Alexander Agyapong, trainee teacher
After graduating with a degree in computer science, Alexander joined the British Army as a metalsmith and soldier, travelling around the UK before his last posting in Scotland. Upon leaving the services in 2009, taking his skills into the classroom seemed like “a natural progression”, and he began working as a teaching assistant in London. It was here that his colleagues quickly recognised his aptitude for education and encouraged him to pursue teacher training.
“One of the teachers spoke to me and said, ‘I think you’d make a very good teacher. You’ve done a great job with all the students you’re working with and we think you should go for it’,” recalls the trainee maths teacher at Blenheim High School in Epsom.
Alexander looks back on this as being a “brilliant” decision – but he admits he was apprehensive at first. However, the six-month subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course he had to complete to teach maths helped to dispel an initial lack of confidence. And because there’s funding available for SKE candidates, he also didn’t have to worry about any financial implications.
“The course fees were all paid for. I was also given a monthly bursary allowance, which was very helpful,” he says.
SKE empowered Alexander to train to teach a subject he is passionate about, even though it wasn’t the core focus of his degree. Alexander is now well into his teacher training course and the ex-soldier relishes the chance to share his enthusiasm for maths.
“Students like to see you being excited by your subject, they want to see something exciting and they want to have fun,” he says.
“In a recent class, we were working through expanding brackets, which many pupils had previously struggled with,” he explains. “So I went into the lesson thinking, ‘Maybe this will be a disaster’. Instead, I came out of the lesson thinking, ‘Do you know what, they’ve learnt something today.’ And just seeing the expression on their faces was enough to convince me all over again that I had made the right career decision by getting into teaching.”
As he nears the end of his placement year, Alexander is looking forward to the challenge of climbing the career ladder.
“Hopefully in the next few years I could be a head of department, or head of year. There are so many opportunities to progress in teaching,” he concludes. “One of my friends became a head of year during his NQT year. So if colleagues can see your potential, you have every chance of achieving your career ambitions.”
Many service leavers will have the raw ability and experience to excel in teaching.Matt Allott, armed service leaver and teacher
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