How former teacher is living her childhood dream of educating kids after joining Severn Trent
Monday 11th September
As a little girl Sharan Gill dreamed of one day becoming a teacher.
From the age of five she would set up her toy blackboard, place her teddy pupils in a row on the floor, and then lead them through their ‘lessons’ for the day.
And those childhood dreams came true for Sharan, who went on to teach RE and History at a Solihull secondary after becoming the first woman in her family to attend university.
Then last summer she left her increasingly busy school job after 15 years and began a key educational advisor role within Severn Trent which has seen her back doing what she loves - teaching kids in the classroom.
She is part of a talented and experienced educational team who have inspired thousands of pupils across the region, including Wolverhampton and the Black Country, at fun, engaging, events. And life-long educator Sharan, 39, could not be happier.
The married mum-of-one, from Solihull, said: “I was one of those people who always knew they wanted to be a teacher. And I did spend 15 years teaching in the same school I trained in and loved it.
“But in teaching you never get to the bottom of your ‘things to do’ list, there is never enough time.
“When I heard about the Severn Trent education role it seemed perfect for me, so I applied and was lucky enough to get it. And within weeks of starting, I was back in the classroom!”
She added: “Like teaching, I still get a buzz from delivering to pupils, especially when you have an engaged audience. I feel like a teacher again then, but I have to tell myself not to tell the children off!”
Sharan is part of Severn Trent’s education team who travel into primary and secondary schools to talk to pupils about everything water, as well as offering crucial careers advice. As part of a Wonderful Water Tour, they provide free assemblies and workshops and make the sessions interactive, informative and most of all fun. Interactive buses can also be booked for the events, which provide practical learning for youngsters. In the last school year, more than 135,000 pupils were treated to the sessions across the Severn Trent region, including Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.
“In Chemistry GSCE, there is a whole section on waste water treatment,” said Sharan, who has been married to husband Sat for 15 years.
“We play a video about how we treat sewage at our Minworth site and the teachers and pupils love it because it’s a real life example of what happens, rather than from a text book.
“At the same time we use the sessions to deliver our messages about what to flush and what not to flush.
“In workshops we can also make fake poo with Weetabix, give the kids the filtering equipment and say ‘Right then, filter it all out’. When I was teaching we had nothing like this, no private companies coming into the schools to help in education like this.”
And the Severn Trent schools team, which includes a number of former teachers, provide far more than just water education.
Sharan, who is mum to 10-year-old Devan, said: “Young people need information about careers and the skills to join the world of work when they are older.
“We provide employability skills and training, mock interviews, things like CV writing, how to ace interviews, growing confidence and relationship building.
“We develop real partnerships with the schools.”
Engaging pupils is a skill that the newly-qualified teacher Sharan had to learn quickly after taking up her first role at the Solihull school.
“I remember having to try and teach RE to lads who were doing PE GCSE. They initially had no intention of listening to me,” she recalled.
“It took me about six months to get them into the class and sit there in silence and open their books – but I did it.
“That class taught me some of the harshest lessons about engaging different types of audiences.
“Kids smell fear so, even if you don’t feel it, you have to act confident. I made a point of walking around the room as if to say, ‘this is my space too’ as kids can be very territorial.”
But of course, the majority of pupils welcome in the Severn Trent educator – including students at Lordswood Girls’ School in Harborne, where she had attended as a child.
Sharan said: “The teachers said the girls really appreciated my visit because I’d told them ‘I’ve come from where you are’ and now work for this business. It was great for aspirations and I left my old school buzzing.
“The best part of this job is I am still the educator and still the ‘performer’ in the classroom, although people do not believe me when I tell them I’m actually an introvert. But that’s true, it’s all an act!”
Starting a new chapter in her education career has also had another bonus for the busy mum – some much-needed spare time to enjoy her family and new pastimes.
Sharan said: “Since joining Severn Trent I’ve had time to do all things I’d never had time to do before.
“I’ve taken up floristry and go to evening classes one night a week and really love it, it’s very creative, relaxing and good for well-being. I’m also now enjoying yoga, which I never had the time for before.
“In previous summer holidays I would say, ‘Oh shall I do some exam marking?’ Now I’m thinking, I’m going to floristry or I’m going to yoga - I’ve got time for me.”
She added: “The job here is manageable. I feel a sense of achievement at the end of my day and the company cares and appreciates you and recognises when you have done a good job or when you need a bit of a lift. And I’m so blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive team.”
Yet there are occasional reminders of her former teacher job when she walks around the Severn Trent HQ in Coventry, where a number of her ex-pupils have jobs.
“I bumped into one young lady who stopped and looked at me in surprise and then said: ‘Oh, hi Miss!’
“I said, ‘Oh, don’t call me ‘Miss’ any more - just call me Sharan.’”