I enjoyed talking to Zoe Hennchen who is a Biology and Engineering teacher at Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire.
Zoe has been shortlisted for the TES New Teacher of the Year award. Zoe is passionate about encouraging more females to study STEM subjects or go into STEM careers.
You can listen to her ‘Spotlight’ episode on Teacher Hug Radio at 5 pm on Saturday 21st August or 1 pm on Sunday 22nd August.
Zoe joined the team at Engineering UTC Northern Linconshire in September 2019, bringing with her an exuberance that rubs off on every student in the UTC. Her attitude to projects, challenges, and outstanding teaching with excitement and tenacity is infectious. Zoe originally trained as a Higher Education teacher but after spending some time at UTC she decided to change the focus of her training to Secondary level. Zoe trained as a biology teacher, and joined UTC as part of the science team, but also quickly picked up teaching engineering, physics and chemistry.
Zoe never imagined she would be a teacher when thinking about careers at school. She carried out a Marine and Freshwater biology degree and when she finished that she became a research assistant at the university. Zoe always wanted to become a marine biologist. However, she has also always loved horses so left the university to become an events organiser for a horse syndicate. She missed education and university so decided to complete a PGCE for Higher Education. When completing summer cover work with an agency she was placed at UTC. They informed her that they were looking for a biology teacher so she decided to change the focus of her PGCE to Secondary teaching and completed the second year of her part-time PGCE at UTC.
Engineering UTC Northern Linconshire is a University Technical College which is linked to a local university. The curriculum is heavily project-based and the needs of industry partners are thought about when developing projects for pupils to complete. The business partners ask the pupils to solve problems for them. The facilities mirror industry resources and machinery. They also teach curriculum subjects for academic success. The policies are built around business values of loyalty, professionalism and responsibility. There is no uniform and pupils are asked to wear their own business attire. Teachers are called by their first name in order to make it more like a business environment. Pupils join the school from year 9 onwards, up to sixth form. The majority of the pupils are male but there is an increase in females joining the school.
As a woman in science, Zoe is a huge advocate of Women in Science and Engineering, and supports the Humber-wide initiative; WiME (Women into manufacturing and Engineering), attending events, and dialing into the virtual webinars with our female students. They organise events in school to try and encourage more girls to study STEM subjects. Many females are unaware of the engineering career opportunities in the local region so Zoe works hard to ensure that the girls from the UTC are aware of this and more of them are now on an engineering career path. Female industry partners come into the school to inspire the pupils and female mentors are assigned to students to support their development.
Zoe supported the Careers Leader with a project led by an international wind turbine company (Triton Knoll). This company were looking at their offer to schools, which was mostly careers fairs, work experience (where able), and class talks. In partnership with Triton Knoll, Zoe created lesson plans that were for tutor time, one-hour lessons, half-day off curriculum, and a full day off curriculum workshops. These resources were piloted by UTC students in year 9, led by Zoe, with feedback and evaluation shared with the company. Students loved it and were fully immersed in the experience for the day. Zoe created an atmosphere where students were able to work individually, were broken into small teams, and then their work was brought back together to complete the whole project. Students were given large perspex sheets with essentially the same coastline, but differing objectives within. Students were split into groups of archaeologists, tourist board, marine biologists, and oceanographers. They had to explain where they would build their wind turbine, and even had to pay the Crown Estate for placing the turbines. It was only when the perspex was placed on top of each other that students found that by working as a bigger team there was only one place the turbines could be situated. Zoe also built-in short Q&A information that students had to research, and supported Triton Knoll with their videos and job matching activity. These resources are now on the Triton Knoll website for all students nationally and internationally to use, and can be done with minimum support from the Triton Knoll team. The resources have also been shared with a Humber-wide sharing platform for schools and colleges to use.
Zoe is currently working on another project with Weatherquest, where students will analyse data to see where it is safe to go out as technicians to wind turbines in the sea. She is meeting with the team often to pull together their information and create short lessons plans, and a longer plan for them to also promote on their site.
This innovative way of teaching and learning has been seen across the students, who are excited to go to Zoe’s lessons.
As a biologist and a country girl, Zoe likes nothing better than cutting something up, whether this is a pig’s heart to sow the ventricles, or more recently at an open evening where she had half a cow delivered to dissect to prospective students. Zoe’s passion for what she is talking about comes across and excites all who listen.
Zoe teaches from year 9 up to year 13 and has been a huge help to students in year 13 who have had to complete their Unit 22 Engineering (Engineering and the Environment module). This is a research module for students. Zoe spent hours finding information about Net Zero, UK targets, decarbonisation, energy generation, farming, etc., and has pulled together a document that supports all elements of this module together as links for ease for the students. Zoe has also asked Orsted (World’s most sustainable company) to check the student’s work. Orsted has agreed, and this has really supported much better project work now the students know they will be critiqued by a company that many would want to work for. The whole unit has had an overhaul to make what was essentially a project that students could not be that creative with, to one that students are proud of, and complete outstanding pieces of work.
I also really enjoyed talking to the pupils from the UTC. They all said that they really enjoyed the more practical curriculum that the UTC is able to offer. Working on projects for the industry partners has really inspired them to find solutions to problems and have a practical reason for their work. They all want to go into an engineering career and feel that the UTC is setting them up for success in this career path.
Zoe is leading on a new specialism; Health Sciences and Social Care, building a curriculum to deliver next year that accommodates the 15 values of the care certificate as a seam across year 9 to year 11, awarding bronze, silver, and gold awards for knowledge of the areas. This is a feat in itself to bring together these elements so when students leave for higher apprenticeships and University, and eventually sustainable employment in the industry they have the values and qualities needed, as well as the skills and qualifications.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, it has been lovely to shine a light on Zoe’s good practice and learn from her experiences and ideas. I would love to shine the spotlight on a different school in each episode of my show so if you would like your school to be featured please tweet me on @teacherhugradio or @ArkinstallNikki, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on our free phone number – 0800 246 1555 and leave me a message so that we can contact you.