Not many people can say that gaining a PhD in Organic Chemistry was an incidental happening on the way to a secondary teaching career, but that’s Dr Lynton Baird’s story and he’s sticking to it!
During his own high-school years Lynton was blessed with not one, but two inspirational science teachers. They had both had plenty of life experience prior to becoming teachers and thus had many interesting stories to share with their students. From those years onwards, Lynton imagined that he would become a science teacher but was determined to experience life and gain some stories of his own first. It’s safe to say he has achieved that goal.
Dr Lynton is graduating in Tauranga this weekend along with the rest of his cohort. He holds the honour of being the first person with a PhD to graduate from BTI’s Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary).
We caught up with Lynton to find out how his first teaching role is going and to hear a bit more about his interesting career path.
We imagine that secondary teaching would not be part of the usual career path for someone with a PhD in Organic Chemistry. Can you tell us about why you decided to become a teacher?
Ever since high school I imagined that I would become a secondary school teacher. I had two science teachers in particular who inspired me to that profession. I really enjoyed chemistry at school, which lead to me doing my Honours degree at Otago University in chemistry. I enjoyed the initial taste of research during my last year, so I applied for a couple of research jobs and PhD scholarships. I was awarded a scholarship for a research project at Victoria University and moved up to Wellington.
After 3.5 years hard slog, I finished my synthesis of Aigialomycin D and was happy to graduate. I carried on with research for a couple years at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research before deciding it was time for a break. My wife and I spent a year overseas volunteering for A Rocha, a Christian Conservation group, in Canada and Kenya.
When we arrived back in New Zealand, I found some temporary research work at Industrial Research Limited in Lower Hutt. Despite being offered a long-term contract, I felt that God was leading me to teaching. In New Zealand there are very limited roles for lecturers that solely teach and thus secondary school was where I was to go.
Thus I guess I was probably always going to do teaching, the PhD was just incidental on the way. :-)
What motivates you as a teacher?
I am motivated to empower students through their learning. Learning science will open many doors for them in future, even if they can't see that now. I am motivated by the look on student's faces when they finally get something or when they do really well on an assessment. I am motivated to help shape students that are empathetic, peacemakers, and care for their neighbours and the creation. I am passionate about helping students understand how our amazing world works.
We understand you were offered a job before you even finished your training. How did that come about?
Jobs came up at two of the schools that I had practicums at. I was offered both a physics and chemistry job in the same week. I think this was a month or so before the end of the course. Since chemistry was my passion and the job was in Masterton where I grew up, I decided to take that job. It was a privilege to be able to choose between two jobs though.
What has your teaching experience been like so far?
I am teaching chemistry and science at Wairarapa College in Masterton. I love it and find it much more rewarding than research. I am teaching a Yr10 science, two Yr11 science and Yr12 chemistry. I love it when they are engaged and asking lots of questions, even when I don't know the answers. My greatest challenge is classroom management and engaging students when they don't have any interest in science.
What was your study experience at BTI like?
I loved my time at BTI. The lecturers really cared for you and supported you through the course. The small numbers meant that you get to really know many of your classmates even though it was a distance course. I loved the intensive courses and the Noho Marae experience. I really enjoyed much of the course work, especially learning to teach from a Christian perspective. Totally recommend it.
CLICK HERE to find out more about how you can embark on a life-changing secondary teaching career with BTI.