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May 22nd 2024

Teacher Spotlight: Q&A with Ms Lewis

Kristina Highlife (1)How long have you been teaching for?

I started teaching shortly after graduating from university in 2010. I first started working as an Academic Intervention Tutor and Mentor for GCSE and A-level students at Pimlico Academy in South London before completing my teacher training programme.

How did you know teaching was the profession for you?

I realised I loved teaching during my own A-levels. I always enjoyed supporting my friends with their studies, often leading revision sessions during lunchtime or after school. I found a lot of it was connected to self-motivation, so I used to give my friends (mainly the boys!) pep talks about aiming high and trying their best. At 17, it was clear teaching was my calling!

Why Blackheath High School? What sets the school apart from other schools?   

The commitment to celebrating every individual for her own talents and achievements is what first drew my attention to Blackheath High School. I love knowing that the school does not shy away from encouraging girls to take risks with their learning and to strive for academic excellence. ‘Where Girls Boldly Go’ is such an inspiring motto – to develop courage, especially when faced with setbacks, is a crucial part of the learning process and I’m proud to be part of a school where this is encouraged and celebrated.

What does your role as Deputy Head encompass?

I have overall responsibility for leading the academic work of the school so that every student receives a stimulating, rich and ambitious education. My role is to ensure girls at Blackheath High achieve their very best, develop a genuine love for learning, and leave school as informed and engaged global citizens.

What inspires you/ gets you out of bed in the morning?

On a very literal level, my children get me out of bed in the morning! I don’t think I’ve had a lie in since January 2018.

I love my job and feel very fortunate to enjoy what I do every day. I have a strong interest in teaching & learning and the sharing of best practice, so it’s probably the conversations with my colleagues about our teaching practice that keeps me motivated and inspired every day. I also love my subject area – History & Politics, so I look forward to my lessons with my students.

Who is your role model and why?

I have many role models! The first person who sprung to mind was Sophie Magdalena Scholl, a member of the White Rose resistance group run by students at the University of Munich who distributed leaflets to decry Nazi crimes and the political system. In 1943, she was arrested by the secret police, sentenced to a ‘mock trial’ and then executed for treason at just 21 years old. What I admire most about Sophie was her courage and unwavering commitment to speak truth to power. Even when sentenced to death, Sophie concluded: “I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the education sector and what are your ideas for approaching them?

As with most walks of life, there are plenty of challenges facing the education sector, but it’s important to see them as opportunities for positive change.

One challenge is evaluating high stake 16+ assessments and whether they are truly fit for purpose in 2023/24. I am part of a working group, ‘Rethinking Assessment’ where we discuss the merits and problems associated with GCSE examinations and whether it’s now time to explore other avenues for learning and assessment. There’s an abundance of research and discussion out there on this topic and I am sure over the next decade we will see some significant changes in how we assess learning, especially with the increasing use of AI tools for learning. I see this area as an exciting opportunity and one that I will engage with during my time as Deputy Head Academic.

Another challenge facing the education sector that I feel particularly strongly about is teaching young people ‘how to disagree well’. I have talked about this topic a lot at school recently and also in a recent podcast interview, in terms of just how important it is to listen and respect a range of different perspectives, even with people you may disagree with. Supporting the skills, tools and techniques to disagree well is an important part of education that we must embrace so that our students can navigate difficult conversations and engage with critical discourse; a key reason why we have now introduced this as a module in our Girl emPowered Enrichment Programme.  

What kind of leader are you?

I am a strong believer in empathetic and collaborative leadership where one takes on board differing viewpoints, listens, and offers solutions. I hold true the popular saying: ‘people may not remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.’  

If someone made a film of your life, who would you want to play you?

Carey Mulligan is one of my all-time favourite actresses. I love so many of her films where she takes on bold and brilliant female characters, especially in ‘Suffragette’, ‘Dig’ and ‘She Said’, so I would be totally honoured if she played me!!

What good practice have you brought from previous roles to Blackheath High?

I am really keen on ensuring that we do regular Learning Walks as part of our school’s commitment to improving our teaching & learning provision. Learning Walks are where a Senior or Middle Leader visits a series of lessons, perhaps four lessons over a single period, to gain a snapshot of the learning happening across the school. It’s even better when I collaborate with another colleague on a series of Learning Walks, as it’s a great way to generate interesting conversations about pedagogy and learning.

Who is your favourite musician?

Can I choose more than one?! I love listening to Nina Simone, especially her beautiful song: ‘I wish I could be free’. I am also a big fan of the US girl band ‘Haim’. I enjoy Bon Iver’s music too!

Do you have any plans to support neurodivergent students?

I am busy working with the Learning Enhancement department to ensure our curriculum and assessment are relevant and suitably challenging for all learners. We are also supporting neurodivergent students by staying abreast of recent pedagogical developments in cognitive science so that we are providing an excellent education. As the Deputy Head Academic, it is important for me to get to know our students well via small group and 1:1 conversations.  

Which schools have you previously worked at?

I have worked at Pimlico Academy, a co-educational state school in central London. I have also worked at Queen Elizabeth School for Boys, a selective state grammar school in North London where I taught History & Politics. I have worked as Head of History and Politics at Bromley High School, also part of the GDST, and I have worked as Assistant Head (Teaching & Learning) at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park.

What are your key areas of focus as Deputy Head Academic?

Top of my agenda is reviewing and building on our current curriculum offer at Stage Three to ensure it is academically rigorous and enriching for all pupils. One of my favourite educationalists, Mary Myatt, is a strong defender of the KS3 curriculum, arguing it is the ‘powerhouse of a school’. I agree with her! It’s so important we get this right to ensure we are equipping students with the skills and knowledge to develop a love for learning, alongside essential skills such as collaboration, communication and creativity. I am also excited to work alongside my counterpart at the Junior School so that we can map the KS2 and KS3 curriculum alongside each other to create a well sequenced learning journey for girls at Blackheath High School.

What is your favourite subject?

History and Politics, of course!

What is your favourite science?

Biology – I recently bought my five-year-old the book, ‘My Amazing Body,’ which seems to fascinate me more so than him!

Do you have any pets? If not, what is your dream pet?

No pets at the moment, but I grew up with a gorgeous Labrador, who I used to walk every day. He was a great companion during my GCSE and A-level revision!

What is your favourite achievement?

I was so thrilled to be appointed to Blackheath High as the Deputy Head Academic. I literally leapt out of my chair with excitement when I saw the job advert and I knew instantly that I was going to apply for the role. I am equally proud of balancing my love for teaching and learning alongside having a busy family life with two young children.

Where did you study and what did you study?

I read History at the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate, and then I completed a Masters in Politics and Education at UCL, London.

What are your favourite activities?

I enjoy reading – especially historical fiction, and I love indulging in the weekend newspapers if I have the time (usually during the holidays). I also love listening to podcasts, especially the NewsAgents, Woman’s Hour and Elizabeth Day’s ‘How to Fail’. Walking, cycling, baking (eating) cake, and playing with my children too!

What's your favourite school lunch?

Everything in our school canteen is delicious! I look forward to lunch at school every day and long for it during the holidays! We’re very well fed here.

What is your least favourite subject and why?

None! I don’t think I’d be forgiven as the new Deputy Head Academic if I singled out a specific subject. They’re all great!




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