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Teacher Interview: Chris O'Reilly

At UTC Leeds our teachers and students have unique relationships that create a working environment of mutual respect. Both teachers and students wear the same uniform and communicate on an even playing field, with our staff’s vast experience and expertise allowing our students all the extra support and input that they need to succeed. Read our student-teacher interviews for an insight into this dynamic and into our team’s experience in STEM.

Heather (Year 10 student): What experience do you have in industry, and what did you do before UTC Leeds?

Chris O’Reilly (Assistant Principal, Year 10 Pastoral Lead): I came to UTC Leeds having been a teacher for a number of years - I’ve worked at various different schools, including boarding schools and other schools in the local city. Industry-wise, previous to the UTC I was actually going to join the RAF as a pilot. I did the flying scholarship and trained with them, and then found out I was afraid of heights… so I didn’t become a pilot!

I still had a love for engineering and that side of things, so then I went to university to study engineering, but then actually returned to study biomechanics. It’s my real love, where I combine sport and engineering. I did various projects at university looking at the spine and injuries in sport, so my side of engineering has always been slightly different – it’s been through the human body.

Heather: What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

Chris: One of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on was at university looking at people who had spinal injuries, where we used infa-red detectors on some fast-bowlers, a couple of whom now play cricket for England.

We tracked the movement of their spine and looked at how they moved when running in to bowl, and how the spine being extended or pronated could cause injury. It was a bit like a computer game, where we put little dots on and they would track the whole body, which is the way they make FIFA nowadays. It’s what I did my dissertation on and I really enjoyed that…anything that’s to do with improving people’s quality of life really.

Heather: What is the biggest science challenge you’ve faced?

Chris: A big project was actually last year when I ran a space week for my previous school. We had students interacting with people who’d been in space, with engineers from NASA, and we had universities coming into school talking about the Hubble telescope and various missions to Mars. We also had a rocket launch with the students… we had various activites that took place over whole week and involved a thousand students, plus many people from the local area, so that was a big science project that I absolutely loved!

Heather: What is your favourite part about UTC Leeds?

Chris: I think it’s the ethos – the whole point is that the student is at the centre, and that’s clear when you speak to the Principal. We have the end users, we have the companies and the universities, and we look at the student and where they want to go, and we can map it all the way there and put the things in place that will get them to the end result. I think it’s an amazing opportunity. What else do I love about UTC Leeds… some of you lot to be fair! Every day is very different, which means I never get bored.