Camilla Evans: Sharing an appetite for learning

The children sitting in Mrs Camilla Evans’s science class may have a lot more in common with their teacher than you realise. For starters, she loves tech and gaming (she met her husband at their university video games soc) and comic books (Japanese manga series Sailor Moon is a particular favourite, as well as The Walking Dead), and she is fascinated by astronomy and space travel (she speaks enthusiastically about a lecture by Keith Wright, an Apollo-era safety technician who worked on Appollo 13).

A bright maths and technology spark from an early age, Camilla surprised everyone by choosing a degree in dance, despite being largely self-taught. But her first job in a dance company led her back to technology when she designed the audio-visual element of a multimedia performance, and then moved on to train others in the tech required.

She almost ended up in Japan, inspired no doubt by her interest in manga, but an unexpected turn of events required a rapid rethink, and with three weeks to hit the application deadline, Camilla opted for a PGCE course instead. It proved an extremely happy accident for a woman who discovered that being a teacher is the perfect job for a polymath.

Camilla, it quickly becomes apparent, is someone with an endless appetite for learning – an all-too-frequently undervalued trait in a teacher. If something sparks her interest, she dives in, reads everything she can, watches videos, goes to lectures, even devours GCSE revision guides! She says she would hate to teach something she didn’t find interesting; but then she seems to be interested in everything.

As Science leader, she has transformed the subject at Heywood. She is delighted with the amount of curriculum time Science is given, and is putting all her efforts into ensuring the children are as enthused about it as she is – which is very! As someone who favours lots of hands-on, practical learning, her starting point is always, ‘What can we do?’ Facts, she says, come and go. What is vital is building curiosity, investigative processes, the ability to think critically and not take things at face value. These are transferable skills that will keep her pupils expanding their understanding of the world for the rest of their lives.

Camilla’s Astronaut Training School is the stuff of legend. As well as exploring all the science involved in space travel, she assigned flight-team roles based on the children’s proficiency in all parts of the curriculum. So the Captain needed top-quality Literacy skills, as communication is vital in that role; a child with strength in PSHE was appointed to the key job of supporting the astronauts’ mental health and welfare; and a PE star was given responsibility for health and physical fitness. She even managed to source NASA graduate badges. It was an experience those children will not forget.

After seven years at Oldfield Park Primary School in Bath, plus the obligatory supply teaching, Camilla is making the most of the opportunities that Heywood Prep has brought to develop her chosen subject, and is enjoying the cheerful and purposeful atmosphere here. She also makes special mention of the support for children with Special Educational Needs, noting how early intervention in pupils who are struggling has a significant impact, with improvements in the child’s learning that really stick.

We will close with an interesting quandary, one with which you may sympathise. Many of us battle, with varying degrees of success, to limit the amount of time our children spend on screens. Well, Camilla and her husband are still as keen on video games as the day they met, and renounce relaxing in front of tv box sets in favour of some serious gaming. She is already worrying that there is a difficult do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do conversation to be had before too long with her two-year daughter. As one parent to another, good luck with that, Mrs Evans!