‘It’s a great honour’: Upminster teacher’s delight after national award recognition

Esther McCall with her 2020 Teachers of Physics award. Picture: Esther McCall

Esther McCall with her 2020 Teachers of Physics award. Picture: Esther McCall - Credit: Esther McCall

An Upminster teacher has received a national accolade recognising her work in inspiring future physicists.

Esther McCall won a 2020 Teachers of Physics Award, given out by the Insitute of Physics (IOP), which celebrate the achievements of teachers in raising the profile of physics at schools across the country.

She is in her fourth year working at Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School, where she is assistant headteacher, after 18 years at The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School in Upminster and stints at other schools across east London and Essex.

A citation on the IOP website said her leadership and passion for physics has “inspired excellence from her students and colleagues, thus consistently raising uptake and achievement at several schools”.

When she first found out about the award, Esther thought it was a hoax.

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She said: “I got in touch with the Institute of Physics who confirmed it was bona fide. Then I was very excited and thrilled.

“It’s a great honour, especially as only a few teachers receive this award.”

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Explaining her teaching methods, she said that she aims to relate physics to students’ everyday experiences.

“A challenge in teaching physics is its vocabulary, which is very subject-specific.

“For example, in everyday speech energy and power are used more or less interchangeably, as are mass and weight. However, all these terms have specific and distinct meanings when used in physics.

“I try to inspire students by addressing their misconceptions in my own humorous, geeky style. I think they enjoy this.”

Teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant she has had to come up to speed with mixing online and classroom teaching, which Esther admitted had been particularly challenging for her subject.

She added: “From a physics perspective, there is an added complication as there has been very little opportunity for the students to carry out practical work.

“I have had to use a web-cam to demonstrate experiments whilst live-streaming lessons.”

Her citation also said she is proud to be a role model for girls and BAME students and Esther felt that role models are “very important”.

She added: “I had no career guidance when I was at school. At one time I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I worked for a short time as a research physicist before becoming a teacher.

“In my everyday teaching I work hard to promote some of the different career pathways that can be followed with a science background.”

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