Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire, UK
I’m Suzi Lombardelli and I’m a D&T teacher and D&T Key Stage 3 Co-ordinator at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire. Before I started teaching I was a Set and Costume Designer for Theatre and TV, working across the country and in the USA in a range of roles. I’ve designed costumes for UK tours, sets for musicals in New York State and worked in costume departments for long-running BBC dramas.
Throughout this career, I quickly discovered that I really enjoyed teaching people new things, like being able to thread a sewing machine or draw in 2 point perspective. I also realised just how extraordinary the imaginations of young minds are, and, what brilliant, creative and innovative ideas you come up with. It was then that I decided that I wanted to teach young people all about the design process and trained to teach.
Most D&T teachers have a subject specialism, usually routed in a material area. While I teach Textiles for GCSE and A-Level, I’m slightly different in that I teach all other material areas at KS3 including Food & Nutrition. This is because the thing that I am most passionate about is teaching young people the process of design. As a designer you are a creative problem solver, discovering a solution no one else has found before, so I encourage students to always look at the world with an inquisitive mind.
I really love it when students come into my classroom with a sketch in their hand of something they have designed at the weekend because they were thinking of how to fix a particular problem. This is one of the reasons I really wanted to work with this creative platform for Young Creators. They are giving you opportunities to connect with industry professionals to see how the skills you are taught in the classroom translate into real life and even a potential career.
I’ve always said, that if you can understand why we teach you what we do, you will be able to see pathways and avenues that will be open to you in the future. Making your learning relevant to real life is a key principle for me.
Lord Williams’s School is a large Academy with over 2000 students. Out of the classroom, my main role within my department is to co-ordinate the KS3 curriculum. With nearly 100 students in KS3 alone, this takes quite a bit of organising! I am responsible for allocating students to their D&T groups, timetabling their teachers, organising the different rotations and assessments and, with the help of our fantastic technicians, ensuring we have enough equipment and materials.
But the largest part of my job, and the part I enjoy the most is being able to design an innovative engaging curriculum for our students to enjoy. I often see products on TV or online that inspire me to bring them into the classroom. The most important thing for me is that our curriculum constantly evolves, so that it stays relevant and true to the design processes used in the industry.
While inside the classroom, I teach a range of subjects, Textiles, Graphics (including CAD/CAM), Workshop, (including woods, metals and plastics), Electronics and Food & Nutrition. I love to watch our students develop their skills and succeed in something new.
There is nothing more rewarding than watching a ‘lightbulb moment’ in a classroom, when a student finally gets something they didn’t previously understand or have been struggling with, or to watch them model out their design so they can work out all of the finer details of how it is going to be put together and work successfully.
There are lots of different projects that I have been proud of over the last couple of years. We ran a module at my previous school in Food & Nutrition called ‘Budget vs Luxury’ where students had to create and devise recipes based on luxury items but at a fraction of the cost. Watching our Year 9 students cooking their £1 roast, complete with deboning a chicken thigh and creating their own stuffing was a real highlight of this module.
Teaching Year 7 Graphics students about scale and proportion, by designing and making our own scale model dream houses all put together to produce our own ‘dream street’, was also great fun. I’m also proud of the work of KS3 and 4 students who entered an ‘adapt challenge’ in textiles. It was run in conjunction with the BHF and the V&A kindly donated tickets to their exhibition as a prize. Each student was given a men’s suit, shirt and tie to adapt into something new.
It was really excited to watch students transform their garments into something new, with a new purpose. Their sense of achievement and pride in their work is what I thrive on, seeing students inspired by what they design and produce is my favourite part of the job.