It’s such an amazing subject. It’s in everything we do and it’s all around us, but it’s even more important at the moment with green chemistry and atmospheric chemistry helping us to develop alternatives to fossil fuels to fight the climate crisis.
After completing his chemistry degree at the University of York, Tim Bradbury secured his first professional job as a laboratory technician in a school.
While there, Tim found himself enjoying becoming more involved with lessons through the delivery of demonstrations and mentoring students – an experience that led to him retraining as a teacher.
“A few colleagues noticed how much I was enjoying it and suggested I should transition into teaching,” says Tim. “I’d already done my degree in chemistry and I’d demonstrated that I could work well with students, so my school sponsored me to undertake the graduate teacher programme.
“I qualified as a teacher and then worked my way up the ranks from deputy head of department to head of department, and then to assistant headteacher. From there I decided to take up a position at the National STEM Learning Centre in York, where I now spend most of my time delivering CPD courses based around chemistry and leadership to teachers.
“Really I had no idea I wanted to go into chemistry until my mum decided on a career change and began doing an Open University degree in the subject. I remember spending my weekends and holidays watching her perform these fascinating experiments with huge boxes of practical equipment turning my kitchen table into her very own lab. She then went on to do a PhD at Bristol and I spent my holidays and Year 10 work experience working in a research lab which was really exciting for a 14-year-old, and I think that’s where my love of chemistry truly started.”
Now working as a professional development leader, Tim has two main aspects to his role – delivering CPD to teachers across all levels and managing the online STEM community.
“The CPD courses range from introductions into teaching chemistry for NQT’s and RQT’s, to non-specialist courses for biology and physics teachers who are now required to teach chemistry. Each course is about helping to develop confidence when delivering chemistry and enhancing pedagogical content knowledge. And I deliver specialist courses for experienced teachers too.
By engaging students with chemistry in school and making sure they have a fantastic experience in their lessons, we can encourage them to take the subject forwards and study it at university and beyond. Hopefully then they can become our next generation of scientists and resolve the environmental issues that we’ve got.
“Knowing that the courses I deliver can help to enthuse teachers and develop their confidence when teaching chemistry is one of my favourite things about the job, as then they can share that passion and excitement for the subject with their students.”
Tim’s passion for continuing professional development stems from his love of teaching and his understanding that chemistry is vitally important for future prosperity on the planet.
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“I think membership is important as it shows that you are a recognised professional, and not only as a chemist but as a chemistry teacher too.”
Since joining, Tim has had many engagements with the RSC and was the link between the organisation and his school back when he was teaching.
“It was a really good opportunity for me to keep up to date with the latest developments in chemistry as well as chemistry education. It provided our school with a good source of resources and articles which could be used in lessons to either stimulate discussion or to help learners better understand chemistry.
“I also took part in some of their outreach activities such as the Top of the Bench competition. I’ve been involved with Spectroscopy in a Suitcase, which is a fantastic opportunity for schools to embrace chemistry and for students to have access to analytical equipment that they wouldn’t normally see.”
I definitely think my CChem will benefit my career and it will fit hand in hand with my CSciTeach too. This professional recognition and the fact that I am a recognised chemistry professional through the RSC has given me the confidence to stand and deliver chemistry courses to experienced teachers and can be very reassuring for course attendees too.
Tim also uses RSC resources now in his current role.
“I use Education in Chemistry and related articles within teaching all the time. When I’m delivering courses, I refer to the RSC’s content and signpost to resources which are always really informative and relevant to what’s going on in the world around us.
“If I’m teaching courses to graduate chemists, I always encourage them to sign up for RSC membership and explain the benefits of being recognised as a subject specialist. On top of that, I point them in the direction of the Teach Chemistry website for additional high-quality resources.”
To help showcase his professionalism to teachers attending his CPD courses, Tim decided to undertake his Chartered Chemist (CChem) in 2020, which he has since been awarded. Following the new scheme, Tim found it easy to relate his work to the attributes – a process which he has since found to be beneficial to his career.
“The process was very reflective which gave me the chance to actually sit back and think about my career in chemistry so far and the impact that it has had on young people and teachers alike. I was assigned a great mentor who was brilliant at making sure I was able to complete all the relevant paperwork and if I had any questions she was always there to answer them.
“The supporting documentation that goes alongside the new scheme is fantastic and really helpful when it comes to relating each of the attributes to teaching and leadership. Previous to this, the old CChem scheme seemed very industry-based or academia-based, but now the documentation helps to explain how you can achieve CChem status as a chemistry educator, which was very helpful for me."