Amanda Watts is Director of Science Support at Aldridge School, Walsall, West Midlands and the winner of the 2018 ENTHUSE Award for Excellence in STEM teaching – Technicians. She tells us about her career, the experience of winning the award and what it meant for her personally, the school and the pupils.
Last year I turned 50 and after 33 years of being a lab technician, 28 of which I have been working at Aldridge School, I finally felt that my evolving career had been recognised. I progressed from Technician and Science College Technician to Senior Technician and Director of Science Support. Winning the ENTHUSE Celebration Award in the category of technicians was a fantastic achievement. The school were so proud: teachers, students and even local parents stopped me and congratulated me on my success!
Winning has definitely raised my profile in school and in the community and the school shared my success on its website. The impact was also noticeable on the students and staff who have benefited from the CPD I completed, which made me eligible for the award. For example, the training of new technicians I carry out, the sharing of the latest health and safety guidelines and the impact I have by enthusing students to love STEM subjects. I also built a new team of trainee technicians, including an apprentice, sharing my skills with them and inspiring them to evolve and succeed.
I was asked to attend a meeting with our new Head Teacher and the CEO of the Mercian Trust, who asked me what had to be done to be a contender for the award. I also received flowers from the school and a letter of appreciation from the governors, one of who made a personal appointment to tell me how lucky the school were to have me.
"Winning has definitely raised my profile in school and in the community. The impact was also noticeable on the students and staff who have benefited from the CPD I completed."
In September 2018, I visited all Year 7, 8 and 9 classes to promote the role of the technician. I talked to them about my career, health and safety expectations and shared my experience of being invited to the awards ceremony at the Royal Society. I explained what the award represented and how surreal it felt to be in the building where famous scientists had trod. I showed them the actual award and encouraged them to aim high and make the most of opportunities even when it means going outside of your comfort zone. Every class gave me a round of applause when I finished talking. The students make it rewarding: their success is my success.
I was also asked to show my award on the school’s open nights. Prospective parents and students were very impressed and enthusiastically participated in practical activities I had set up to ignite their scientific spark! Promoting STEM and where it can take you is at the heart of everything I do, and I actively encourage girls to go into Engineering.
I always say I am just the technician but this award has made me proud of my role and I do my best to promote other technicians to toot their horn. I was asked to deliver a session at the Technician’s Conference in Birmingham in July 2018 where I talked about the evolving role of the technician and the opportunities this career brings. I encouraged them to showcase their talents. The recognition of technicians is really important.
Recently I was asked to deliver CPD outside of my area because I am an ENTHUSE Celebration Award winner and will be doing this in the summer of 2019.
"I always say I am just the technician but this award has made me proud of my role and I do my best to promote other technicians to toot their horn."
I would encourage all technicians to apply for this award. All the CPD that is done has an impact. Going above and beyond is recognised. Good luck!
Could you be an ENTHUSE Celebration Award winner?
You can nominate yourself, or someone you know, for an ENTHUSE Celebration Award until 1 April 2019.