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Victoria Baker - Maths (2009)

Second in Mathematics and Subject Leader of PSHE, King Edward VI Five Ways School
BA Archaeology & Ancient History/Mathematics (2009)

I am currently a Mathematics teacher with responsibility for PSHE coordination in the school. As part of this role I not only teach Mathematics to students up to the Further Mathematics A Level, but I also have responsibilities for development of the curriculum in the school and finding ways to make sure that every student reaches their potential. As Subject Leader for PSHE I take on a different role and coordinate the 'other side' of the education of our students. This involves making sure that they are aware of the choices they will have to make in their life, the opportunities which are out there and how to navigate life in an ever changing and often challenging world!

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?
Since graduating from Birmingham I completed a PGCE at another University (University of Bath) and then moved back to Birmingham for my job. I started at my current school 7 years ago as a Newly Qualified Teacher and have built up my career from there. Although I trained as a Mathematics teacher, my passion lies with pastoral care, and I love that every day I have the opportunity to work with young people and help them to achieve their goals.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
I am able to help and inspire students to follow what they want to do. I always wanted to teach and knew that I would almost certainly teach Mathematics. Yet, I completed a degree which included Archaeology and Ancient History too – because I wanted to! Being able to work with students day to day and get to know about them and their passions, and provide opportunities for them to achieve what they want is why I went into teaching. When people ask me what I teach, I respond with 'children' because for me teaching is not just about passing exams, but becoming a well-rounded human being who can appreciate what they have and what they can do.

What motivates you?
I am motivated by a desire to help people. The best feeling in the world is when you see a student who has been struggling with a concept or having a hard time inside or out of school and you can provide that help. It may be as little as being the person to ask how they are – but the change that we can make it worth it in the end. I am eternally grateful to my teachers who encouraged me and gave me the opportunities they did, and I want to repay that in some way.

Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?
I applied to Birmingham because of the course option. Every other university I applied to was for pure Mathematics. At Birmingham the opportunity to study Ancient History, Archaeology and Mathematics all in one go was perfect for me. I was able to do something which was new and interesting to me, alongside the subject which I knew I wanted to use later in my career. I was also inspired by the atmosphere on the Open Day when I visited all those years ago! Friendly, fun and an opportunity to do more!

What are your fondest memories of your time as a student?
For me Birmingham University was an inspirational place. Although my family home was not far away, it was still somewhere new to explore. There were so many opportunities to get involved in different things, and places to explore. Even up to our final term my friends and I were visiting new places around the campus! The reputation of the University is wonderful, and since leaving and teaching nearby I know the outreach and inspirational work that is being done there is fantastic. It is a University for the City, not just for the students.

How did you grow as a person by coming to University?
Going to University took me out of my comfort zone and inspired me to enjoy learning even more.

What did you think of the learning experience within the University?
Whilst obviously studying Mathematics enabled me to go on to become a Maths teacher, studying a joint honours course taught me that there is more than just one subject and that all things link in some way. The skills I learnt in my arts-based course have enabled me in my teaching to make the subject more relevant and rounded for students.

What inspired you most during as a student?
Friendships built were important to me. Although I lived near to Birmingham, I wanted the 'full' student experience and I built up a close group of friends who supported each other through everything. Even 10 years later we still regularly see each other. The passion which many lecturers had was also inspirational. They showed me that you can be interested in anything! You can research such a huge variety of topics which I never would have dreamed of before I went to University.

What advice would you give to current students?
I don't think that my exact degree option is available to students anymore! I was the only person studying that combination when I was at Birmingham!

For Mathematics students I would recommend statistics. This is the most important module you can study to understand the use of mathematics outside academic research. I think it is the one thing which people in any profession are met with at some point and need to understand to analyse and criticise!

For AAH students I would recommend the more obscure options. I studied 'Weird Archaeology' in my final year and it was the most fun! Being able to pick apart and learn the facts behind the odd nuggets you hear about archaeology.

I loved Birmingham University, and 10 years after graduating am considering returning to complete a Masters' at the institution!