JONATHAN Norgate can look back with huge pride after nearly four decades of teaching in Essex.

However, it may never have happened had severe headaches not pushed him down a different path.

The former assistant headteacher initially had other aspirations and planned to go into cancer research.

However, he suffered a bad reaction to the organic chemicals used while studying Natural Sciences at Queens’ College, Cambridge.

It led to a rethink and one profession’s loss was another’s gain.

All Jonathan’s 38 years of teaching have been spent in Essex, with his first job at Thurstable School, in Tiptree, in 1982.

He went on to work in Colchester, Brightlingsea and Clacton.

Jonathan said: “My father was a vicar and I always got on well with young people at the church, so thought I’d give teaching a go.

“It also meant another year at Cambridge.

“It was a city I’d grown to love and once I started training, that was it.

“My mind was made up although I was a naive 22-year-old when I started at Thurstable.

“I remember being nervous as my first lesson was about the sexual reproduction of a wild flower.

“In the end, it went well and I still remember getting pupils to stick and label the dissected flowers.

“I also remember being nervous delivering my first assembly and how I relaxed when I stumbled over a stretched out leg of a first year and then made everyone laugh with my reaction.

Proud career - Jonathan Norgate

Proud career - Jonathan Norgate

“Over the years I’ve seen so many changes, like chalkboards changing to whiteboards, libraries becoming resource centres, corporal punishment quickly, and rightly, disappearing, teaching becoming more professional and the quality of teaching improving greatly.

“I’ve never lost my passion for it and it’s such a privilege to work with young people.

“When you say hello and see smiling faces, it’s a real motivation and when teaching, those moments when something sinks in and the penny drops are pure gold.”

Jonathan was promoted in 1986 and took charge of key stage three science at Philip Morant School in Colchester.

“I had happy years there with two trips to the Isle of Arran, in Scotland,” said the 60-year-old.

“They stand out in my memory for some great company - staff and pupils - and wildlife.

“Health and safety wasn’t quite as strict then as it is now and I vividly remember demonstrating the flammability of petrol using a vapour trail. It wouldn’t be allowed today.”

In 1999, Jonathan landed the job of head of science at the Colne Community School in Brightlingsea.

He first started to move from a chemistry to a physics teacher and also began his involvement with teacher training, developing science trainees.

“I was proud to be nominated twice by students for Teacher of the Year and attending the finals of the Eastern Region,” he said.

“My last-ever tutor group was there and the hardest thing I did when I moved schools for one last time was to say goodbye to them.

“I still wonder now how their lives worked out.

“I remember vividly going back to observe a trainee teacher and being surrounded by a lot of my former tutor group.

“They were so genuinely pleased to see me, although not half as pleased as I was to see them.”

Jonathan moved to Clacton County High School in 2001.

He was appointed assistant headteacher and became a specialist physics teacher.

He then retired last August and now works two days a week for North Essex Teacher Training (NETT).

It completes a circle and he sees it as a great way to finish his long career.

“I loved my time at Clacton County High School and it was rewarding to see many pupils go on to physics-based courses at university,” he said.

“The pupils there are truly inspirational, with such enormous potential.

“Both as a teacher and in my current training role, you have to enjoy working with young people and to see and believe in them.

“You celebrate when they get through a crisis in their lives and come out stronger the other side.

“Teaching is a people profession and I miss the pupils and staff at Clacton County High School.

“I also miss designing lessons and the resources for them. There is a degree of creativity there I really enjoyed.

“You have to be emotionally resilient and when things in life outside of work are going wrong it can sometimes be hard to keep up the high energy levels, enthusiasm, patience and thinking on your feet that is necessary.

“You have to have a good work-life balance so you continue to have the required energy and drive needed for the job.

“A career in teaching involves a lot of reflection, about lessons, resources, assessments, results and the way that you deal with situations.

“If you have really thought it through then go for it. If you haven’t, find out more.

“Being part of the process of helping young people fulfil their potential is a no-brainer.”

  • Find out more about a teaching career at the NETT information webinars on May 28 (10am) and June 25 (2pm).

Visit or register for your place via or by calling 01255 431949.