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Ben Nicholson’s love of chemistry and music has taken him on a career path that has led back to St Stephen’s School at the front of the classroom.

Ben graduated from Duncraig campus in 2005 with visions of a career as a drummer or chemist. He headed to university to pursue chemistry professionally and worked as an analytical chemist for five years, playing music in his spare time. Until he decided he needed a change of direction and while contemplating his next move, realised he enjoyed teaching people new skills and concepts.

“I had no idea I would be a teacher, I always wanted to be a chemist or a professional drummer! Chemistry and music were my favourite subjects at school. I have always loved science and learning more about how things work,” Ben says.

“After five years of sample analysis, it felt like the right time for a change in direction in life. I still had a passion for science, had a few experiences teaching some concepts to other people and loved seeing their joy when they understood something they didn’t previously,” he explains.

“Now, I really love the ‘lightbulb’ moments in class where students are struggling with a concept, their faces contorted with concentration as they try to understand and then, bam, something clicks and you hear the collective ‘ahh, now I get it!’,”

“It’s music to a teacher’s ears.”

Ben teaches lower Secondary Science and Marine and Maritime Studies in upper Secondary at St Stephen’s School’s Duncraig campus. He says he’s had a lot of memorable experiences as a teacher, including having the honour of teaching children of his own teachers, colleagues’ children and grandchildren of family friends.

“It really emphasises to me the responsibility we have as teachers, and the privilege to be trusted to educate these children.”

Playing the drums, making and drinking coffee, and watching Formula 1 rank as his top-three favourite pastimes beyond the classroom. He’s also played drums professionally in a few bands across his career and helped to write and record some original songs.

Ben says St Stephen’s School taught him so much more than academics as a student, reminiscing about the Music program and all of the choirs and bands he was part of which gave him a real sense of belonging and identity at school.

“I got to work with lots of different people, of different ages to achieve the same goal – making music sound great. This skill has helped me numerous times in very different situations in life outside of school, and still does to this day.”

Now, as a teacher, he has some thought-provoking tips for current students.

“Work hard – rarely do things come easy. There are less people interested in motivating you after school, so you need to learn to motivate yourself.”

“Become comfortable introducing yourself to new people. Networking is so important, and technology keeps making it easier to ignore people and harder to start a conversation. Everyone has an interesting and unique story – often great professional or personal relationships are only a conversation away.”

“Try everything you can! I genuinely loved my time at St Stephen’s and don’t have many regrets, however, the small number I do have are all to do with not taking opportunities that were offered. It takes courage to put yourself out there and try new things, and I wish I had done so a few more times than I did.”