When Jan Knight left the Royal Air Force after a 25-year career in security and counter-intelligence, he knew he wanted to go into teaching. What wasn’t so clear was whether Cambridge was a realistic option.
“I grew up in East Anglia and live in Norfolk, so it was the local choice as well as the aspirational one,” he says. “But, even as a Wing Commander in the RAF, I still had that sense of ‘we don’t go there, it’s not for people like me’.”
That changed when Jan visited Homerton, and he has nothing but praise for the team, from Graduate Tutor Dr Melanie Keane, to PGCE Administrator Louise Roberts, who supported him both in his application and during his PGCE year.
“A big part of me becoming a civilian, and learning how to be a real person again, was through Homerton.”
Although he wasn’t living in College, Jan embraced the sense of community it provided, latching on to its routines and mutual support.
“I’m institutionalised after 25 years in the air force! I loved being part of an institution again – going to Formal Halls was like being back in the Officers’ Mess. I’d have breakfast in College before lectures, or go for a walk in the grounds.”
Jan completed his PGCE in 2019, and began a second career teaching biology at Soham Village College. In the autumn of 2020, a year into the challenges of a brand new role and at the height of the pandemic, he returned to Homerton to complete a Masters in Education, this time alongside the day job.
“Having had a previous career has allowed me to be more reflective about the experience of teaching. During my Masters I looked at how teachers were responding to the pandemic, while shifting my own classes online and also having the experience of being a remote student.”
In addition to its practical and theoretical training, Jan’s time at Homerton gave him a network of newly qualified teachers with whom to swap ideas and advice, many of whom have stayed local. And that network only expands as he rises up the pecking order.
“We’ve a Homertonian PGCE student just along the corridor now, on placement. It’s a continuing cycle!”
Although, owing to its timing, his Masters didn’t offer Jan the chance to repeat his experiences of being part of the day-to-day life of the College, he finds regular reasons to return now that the world has opened up again.
“I love going for a walk in the College grounds. Homerton is the wellspring of my teaching career, and being there reminds me of why I did this.”