Case study: Hilda Sarfo Frimpong, maths teacher

Hilda Sarfo Frimpong, 29, graduated with first class honours in maths and computing and went on to qualify as a teacher at Kingston University in 2008. She teaches maths at secondary level at Saint Cecilia’s, Wandsworth.

I’ve always enjoyed maths. When I graduated I worked as a programmer for six months but found it monotonous – just sat in an office with a computer and not much human contact. At university, I’d tutored students and really enjoyed that. I realised I wanted to work with people so I gave teaching a try.

I was nervous at how the pupils would see me – I’m quite petite and could get mistaken for one of the kids. But it’s been really rewarding.

My education in Ghana was traditional – blackboard, chalk with a stick at the side. Before I started teaching, I expected pupils to take their pens out, listen to what I would say, then I’d mark the work and give it back. Things couldn’t have been more different. And there’s so much more technology you can use.

You have to personalise lessons and give individual feedback – it’s not what I expected, but teaching has definitely changed for the better.

And with new technology you can make maths exciting in different ways. I try to engage them at the start of a lesson – today, I showed a clip from YouTube to start them thinking about compound shapes.

Our department works really well together. If I have a question I can pop in to see any of my colleagues and we share ideas on how to teach. We helped some pupils plan and deliver their own lessons; it was great to see them work together so well. If a child doesn’t understand, I try to be encouraging and stop them giving up. When a pupil finally “gets it”, it’s amazing.

There’s a huge number of career options and you can go for management early on. It’s really comforting to know I’ve got job security and I’m sorted in my career. My advice is to go for it: it’s a hugely rewarding job. It’s not the easiest, but the holidays are a great perk.

I’m never bored and I can call on people for advice at any time.

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