Case study

Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) scholar — Emily Kneller

Emily gained a first class degree in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Warwick. She's now studying for a PGCE

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I've always been a sociable person who enjoys meeting new people, and science was one of my favourite subjects at school.

While undertaking my chemistry degree at Warwick, I realised that a job in research wouldn't be right for me. However, I wanted to put my chemistry degree to good use. Teaching is a sociable job, which will allow me to use all the knowledge I gained during my time in education.

I also enjoyed my time at school, so it was an environment I was happy to return to. While I was in sixth form I tutored younger students, which I found very rewarding. All these things have led me to pursue teaching as a career. 

What teacher training course are you doing and where?

I graduated from my chemistry course in 2018 and I started teacher training in September 2019 with the Lincolnshire Teaching School Alliance (LTSA), who are associated with the University of Lincoln.

What's a typical day like on the course?

I spend one day per week training at the LTSA. The first half of the day is spent working towards the PGCE. We look at research related to all aspects of education, from behaviour management to special educational needs. The afternoon is then spent working towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and practical aspects that can be applied in the classroom. I spend the rest of the week in school putting into practice what I have learned.

Tell us about your scholarship…

Applying for the RSC scholarship was a fairly easy process. It took a few hours as a personal statement was required. However, large parts of this were similar to the UCAS personal statement, so I didn't have to write something from scratch.

The longest part of the process was waiting for my referee to get back to me, but this only took a few days.

The chemistry assessment isn't something to worry about either; the questions were A-level content, so nothing too taxing. The small effort required to fill in the application is well rewarded with the benefits. 

What are the benefits of a scholarship?

Having the scholarship for my training year has been great. There is a financial gain to being a scholar, but the extra training days with the RSC is the main advantage.

A recent RSC training day taught me so many useful things, which I can't wait to try out in the classroom. I found the session we had on micro-chemistry particularly useful. This enables you to carry out experiments on a very small scale, which helps schools that are tight on funding, and allows each student to complete the experiment due to the small amount of chemicals being used. My mentor at my training school was keen to hear about the ideas I had from the day and I hope to use these in the classroom in the future.

Having a separate RSC mentor is also very helpful. I have emailed them a few times and their responses are always helpful and prompt. Although my mentor at my training school is helpful, it's nice to get other ideas from a different perspective to allow me to come to my own conclusion of what will work best for me in my teaching career.

I receive a bi-monthly edition of Education in Chemistry magazine, which comes with practical teaching ideas to use in the classroom, and I have received a box of goodies, such as a lab coat, goggles, posters, a periodic table, a few textbooks and a thermosensitive RSC mug.

I would thoroughly recommend applying for the scholarship if you are considering teaching chemistry. For the short amount of time it takes to fill in the application, the benefits are really worth it.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Aiming for a role such as head of chemistry seems like a realistic goal during the next five years, and maybe head of science after that.

I haven't thought about senior leadership roles yet. I'm in the early days of my career and I really enjoy my time in the classroom. I wouldn't want a job that removed me too far from that environment. 

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