“I love leaving work each day feeling like I've made a difference.” Nina Ridge was ending each work day feeling stressed and tired. Determined to get the work–life balance she craved, she went back to a career path she'd once turned away from. Here's how she made the leap, and how it felt like coming home.
What work were you doing previously?
I was a weather presenter for the BBC.
Having originally qualified as a teacher, I saw a job advert for Broadcast Meteorologists to join the Met Office and work at the BBC.
I applied and trained, leading to a career with the BBC which spanned 15 years. I started presenting on what was BBC News 24, then presented the weather across all the BBC TV channels, Radio 4 and Radio 5 live.
What are you doing now?
My career change has involved going back to the career path I originally studied for and becoming a Maths teacher.
I now work part time, teaching Maths at a school in Tonbridge, Kent.
Why did you change?
During my time at the BBC, my husband and I started a family and we now have four children.
Being a weather presenter can involve anti-social hours – I'd leave the house at 3.30 a.m. some days – and regular weekend working because you're on 24/7 shifts. I was also commuting to London. With my husband being posted around the world for his work, including Afghanistan, our clashing routines meant we could go weeks without being able to spend any quality time together as a family.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
It all came to a head when I realised one of my children was struggling at school.
I knew then we needed to make a change that would enable me to regain my work–life balance and be there for my family.
Are you happy with the change?
I'm so happy to be teaching.
I love the interaction with the children and seeing those light-bulb moments when they suddenly understand the mathematical concepts I'm explaining.
And I love leaving work each day feeling like I've made a difference. Rather than finishing the working day feeling stressed and tired, I feel rewarded and like I've made an important contribution. I enjoy encouraging my students to think differently about maths and getting them engaged with the subject.
I'm also really happy to be in a position where – as a STEM teacher with a successful and high-profile career behind me that wouldn't have been possible without my science and maths qualifications – I can be a role model to the young people I teach, especially the girls.
I currently teach maths part-time – the equivalent of three days a week but spread over four short days – so I can finish early each day which allows me to collect my younger children from primary school.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
The BBC job was great fun.
It was a real mix of science and creativity; although, I do get this in the classroom too.
I don't miss the commute, the antisocial hours or the lack of time we used to get together as a family.
How did you go about making the shift?
I began volunteering in primary school maths classes when I could.
I was soon offered a part-time job, which I accepted. I left the BBC and started the new school term teaching.
The new role freed up time to spend with my family, and my children and husband were supportive of the decision. The school were incredibly supportive with the timetable they offered me; it gave the balance I was looking for – maintaining a career but spending more time with my children.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
It's been hard work learning the new curriculum and getting up to speed in the classroom, but I am definitely now starting to feel more at home.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
My experience outside the classroom was taken into account when agreeing a salary back on the teaching pay scale.
Whilst on paper I have taken a big salary cut, once you remove commuting and child care costs the difference is not as big as I'd expected!
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Whilst working long shifts and weekends had its downsides, it did mean I would often have time at home alone during the week.
Losing this time to get family jobs done has been the hardest change.
What help did you get?
I've received lots of support during the last six months.
My husband has been very supportive, and the maths department has never minded answering my questions and has always been on hand when I've needed some extra help.
What have you learnt in the process?
I've learnt that the transferable skills I have from my career at the Met Office have helped make my change pretty smooth and effortless – once I got to grips with interactive white boards!
As a weather presenter, my role was to reinterpret complex and scientific weather data into an interesting presentation that viewers could understand – essentially I've been teaching the public about the weather for years, so my new role is not so different.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
Changed jobs sooner!
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Going and getting a practical feel for teaching again is important – even if it's just visiting a local school for a day or two.
Walking through the entrance of the school made me feel instantly at home again.
What resources would you recommend to others?
People considering changing career to teaching should look at the Get into Teaching website: www.getintoteaching.education.gov.uk.
If, like me, you've already qualified, visit www.education.gov.uk/returners for bespoke support. Or just contact a local school!
What lessons could you take from Nina's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.