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Profile24th April 2023

“Being at Ark has opened so many doors”, says former actor turned maths teacher

Ryan Critchlow has 20 years of teaching experience and has been at Ark John Archer for nearly seven years. Being a maths teacher was not part of his life plan, but he’s developed a real passion for it and has been encouraged to develop his skills in ways he never expected. His story is part of our #ArkPeople series.

Getting into teaching was not my first choice. Initially, I wanted to go down the acting and theatre route. When I was younger, those were the teachers that inspired me. When I was acting, I did a lot of theatre education, so I worked with children, which led me into teaching.

“many children come alive because numbers and symbols are things they can process quickly. That’s the beauty; you get many light bulb moments in maths”

I initially trained as a drama teacher at a north London school for eight years. I progressed from drama to music, which veered into writing and maths. I’ve always been a nerd at heart, and I like order and patterns, so teaching maths made sense, and I became passionate about the subject. I love maths as it’s so universal. You can see children from backgrounds where English may not be their first language. They may struggle with understanding written text, but it’s that moment where you see many children come alive because numbers and symbols are things they can process quickly. That’s the beauty; you get many light bulb moments in maths.

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and at Ark John Archer for about seven years, joining in the year we transitioned into an Ark school. When I first came to the school, you could tell that it was a place that needed a bit of love and a bit of attention, and that’s precisely what we got as soon as we joined Ark. It’s been an exciting journey seeing where it was to where we are now, the change has been immense. From the feel of the school to the way children perform now, it’s been a thrilling journey.

So many doors have been opened for me, and there’s a real sense that colleagues want you to develop. I’ve undertaken mentoring, coaching, teaching and learning training around my subject area and school leadership training. As assistant principal, I’ve taken on a more significant role in ensuring staff consistently move from foundational to proficient on the Great Teacher Rubric. I’m also in the middle of my NPQSL.

I’ve also had chances to make contributions that reached beyond my school. During the first lockdown, where nobody knew what was happening and how we would teach, I was asked if I wanted to support the Oak National Academy work, so I delivered daily online lessons. I even had parents messaging me, thanking me for support and children sending comments. It was a real learning experience in how I delivered lessons and catered to children outside my classroom.

I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Ark Curriculum Plus and wrote materials for Year 2 Science, another project I’d never thought I’d have the chance to do. This was out of my comfort zone as I don’t specialise in the subject, but it was nice to have that experience reaching teachers outside the network.

Being at Ark has given me so many opportunities; I don’t think I’ve ever had so much development! Having colleagues acknowledge my work has meant I’ve been encouraged into different roles that I might not have pushed myself into if I hadn’t had that recognition and support from colleagues.