Ms Bielby's #supportstaff effect at St Mary's

Ms Bielby's #supportstaff effect at St Mary's

We want to spend this year celebrating some of our teaching and support staff who help make St Mary’s School, Cambridge such an inspiring place for girls to learn and flourish. We call it the #teachereffect and the #supportstaff effect.

Sadly, we can’t cover all our staff; however, we will be showcasing several over this year in many diverse areas and from across the school, from our Preschool to our Sixth Form. We continue our series with Biology Technician, Ms Holli Bielby.

When did you start at St Mary’s?

September 2019

What did you do before you joined?

After I graduated in 2003, with a BSc in Molecular & Cellular Biology, I worked as a research technician in Reproductive Medicine at the University of Cambridge, looking at changes in cell type expression during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle.

I then took a 5-year career break to be at home for my two sons. During this time, I started volunteering: as a Girlguiding leader, starting up a ‘stay & play’ parent and toddler group and as a leader in the ‘Kids Church’ team at my Church.

On returning to the workplace after my career break, I chose to combine my organisational and leadership skills, Laboratory and STEMM knowledge; working to support trainee teachers on the Secondary Science, Primary and Early Years PGCE courses at the University Faculty of Education.

Were you always interested in teaching STEMM? What fuelled that interest and why that subject and area?

I always enjoyed studying Science at school and was particularly fascinated by the Biological world. I became interested in ‘informal teaching’ of STEMM as a Brownie & Guide leader, going on to organise many STEMM-focused events, visitors to our unit, as well as larger scale events to include girls from across the county. I also ran ‘Children’s University’ extra-curricular Science sessions and cross-curricular STEMM topic days at my local primary school, so I’m delighted to be leading the Year 8 STEMM enrichment program at St Mary’s from September.

What have been your highlights of working at St Mary’s?

One of the best things about working at St Mary’s is the kindness and respect that the staff and teachers show each other. I very rarely pass a colleague in the corridor without a greeting and a smile!

Why do you enjoy the teaching environment? 

I love sharing my passion for Science by delivering fun and practical science to students. I am continually surprised by not only the breadth of knowledge some of the students have, but also that they often help me discover new and interesting things with their inquisitive nature... “Do Snails have ears?” Well, I discovered the answer to that - a question that I had never even thought to ask! No, Snails are deaf since they have no ears nor ear canal.

In your opinion what are the benefits of teaching STEMM in an all-girls environment?

A definite benefit from an all-girls environment is that it allows the girls the freedom from stereotypes, to stretch their knowledge and to ask questions.

What do you like to do in your free time when you are not teaching?

As well as volunteering as a Kids Church, Brownie & Guide leader, I also run the social media channels for my Girlguiding county, Cambridgeshire East.

I love being outdoors - one of my other passions is Gardening and I’m generally happiest when muddy! I also love sitting around a fire chatting with friends, or if it’s too cold for that, then I’ll probably be watching forensic or crime dramas on tele instead.

What advice do you have for all the students you have taught – past and present – to help them on their journey in life!

Girls can do anything! You really can do anything if you work hard and put your mind to it. You shouldn’t ever limit your aspirations based on other peoples’ opinions.


Many thanks Holli for such an interesting interview!