A taster day at Brunel University London marked the beginning of a lifelong love affair with design and technology for ACG Strathallan teacher Michelle Le Vesconte.
A student at a traditional British girls’ school at the time, Michelle had only been exposed to long-established mathematics and science programmes. However, the visit to Brunel proved revolutionary.
“I was thinking about becoming a mathematics teacher, but that day I was placed in a group focusing on industrial design. It was fantastic, full of fun, problem-solving, discussion and teamwork. I fell in love!”
Now, three decades later and across the other side of the world, Michelle strives to instil that same exhilaration and sense of wonder into her design and technology students at ACG Strathallan.
“Every year, I have the same goal – to make it to the end of the year feeling that I’ve done everything I possibly can to ensure that each child has felt that same magic and excitement that I experienced at the Brunel taster day all those years ago.”
And undoubtedly, she has done an exceptional job of achieving that aim.
In 2020, the ACG Strathallan design and technology department received their best-ever Cambridge results. Two of her students Mia Willis and Aiko Trapski achieved Top in World for IGCSE design and technology. Plus, an incredible ten students in her IGCSE class gained over 90% in their final Cambridge grade.
“That was definitely a very proud moment! As a teacher, so much of what you do remains unseen. The hours of planning, trying to create new and exciting activities, staying up to date with the latest research and technologies, as well as working to ensure that each individual’s learning style is considered in every single topic. When it finally clicks with a class, and you can see the cogs turning with excitement, that makes it all worthwhile. My experience last year with the IGCSE class of 2020 was a highlight of my teaching career.”
But Michelle is not about to take all the credit for these excellent results.
“I can only do so much. I can guide, I can facilitate, and I can offer advice. But it’s the students that decide what to do with that information and how it is best to use it. The results are achieved because of their hard work and determination.”
Despite 14 years at the school (and many more teaching in the UK, including Head of Department and Dean roles), Michelle still possesses an infectious enthusiasm and unwavering passion for her subjects.
“I encourage my students to be creative, be weird, be different. Just because something doesn’t exist now, why should it not in a few years’ time? Make the impossible – possible.”
The dedicated teacher also finds her classroom life energised daily by the fresh new ideas and perspectives she receives.
“Every day is completely different, and every student’s work is completely unique. I love the fact that you can give the same brief to a class of 20 students, and you will get 20 completely different responses. I love watching the students learn to be creative, to dare to try something new and experiment with their ideas.
“I consider myself lucky to witness amazing achievements every day, things that make me smile with pride. Simple things like a student finally grasping which way up to use a set square or showing improvement in a Year 7 keywords spelling test. Or the student that works diligently to get ahead with their written coursework, so they can spend time focusing on new theory and learning how to apply it correctly.”
But this motivation, inspiration and magic are not just confined to Michelle’s design and technology department – they are alive and well across the entire ACG Strathallan campus.
Adds Michelle, “I am very lucky to work in an environment that inspires me every single day. Not only is Strathallan situated in the most stunning of settings, but as you walk around the school, you can see incredible things happening all around you. Whether it’s in math, PE, art or chemistry, students and teachers can be seen enjoying, and taking advantage of, the opportunity that an education at ACG Strathallan provides.”