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News > Staff > Returning to Hymers: Tom McConnell

Returning to Hymers: Tom McConnell

Tom studied at Hymers College from 2005 until 2015, before returning to work as a teacher in 2020
17 Jan 2024

What do you remember of being a student at Hymers?

I have so many fond memories of my time at Hymers in both Junior School and Senior School. Trips to Windermere, Southern Spain and Sports tour around Europe all spring to mind as fantastic experiences. All this coupled with a genuine enjoyment of the Hymers experience means I look back on my time as a student at Hymers with lots of fond memories. I was lucky enough to be appointed Head Boy in Year 13 and I represented the school at multiple events. I will always remember speaking on the stage at City Hall on Speech Day, and laying a wreath as the school representative at the service in the centre of Hull on Remembrance Sunday.

On the sports field, I represented the school at Rugby, Hockey and Cricket. There are certainly across all these sports I still reminisce about with my friends. Tough wins away at Ampleforth in Year 9 and 10 playing Rugby spring to mind, also getting the man of the match award in our first game in Holland in European tour in Year 13 will be a night I will never forget. I was moving through the school when Boys Hockey was introduced and loved being able to pick up a new sport. Cricket was my real passion at school, and this is the sport I have the most memories from. Being in the squad that reached the last 16 in the country at U13 will always be memorable. Winning at a previously unbeaten GSAL and winning in Cockermouth in Cumbria are great memories I have. Playing against current England cricketer Matthew Fisher in the U15 Yorkshire Cup is another amazing day that I experienced playing sport at Hymers. He opened the batting, bowling and kept wicket that day- thankfully we won though!! I was heavily involved in Senior cricket, captaining the 2nd XI for two years. Throughout that time I also had a handful of appearances in the 1st XI, including fixtures against the MCC and Turf India.

Coupled with my sport, I was also musical. I was introduced to the Double Bass aged 10 by Mrs Bushby (partly because of my height) and didn’t look back. I managed to reach Grade 5 by the time I left school. My music meant I was part of various concerts throughout my time, and look back with fondness at that part of my school life. Orchestra rehearsals were always enjoyable and full of laughs, and we got the chance to play lots of fun pieces during my time. I was fortunate enough that the Double Bass was quite popular at that time, and by Year 13 there were 4 of us playing in the Senior Orchestra. This was nice and meant some company during rehearsals and concerts, to keep each other on time and make sure we were doing things right!!

What did you do after leaving school?

After school I went off to Loughborough University to do BA (Hons) in History, which I really enjoyed. Loughborough is an excellent university that I cannot recommend enough. After graduating I took a job at St Mary’s College on Cranbrook Avenue, Hull as a Graduate Intern and this is where I decided I wanted to get into teaching. This role involved a lot of tutoring of sixth form students who were underperforming and was something that I really enjoyed doing. I then stayed on at St Mary’s to complete my PGCE through Hull SCITT and Hull University. My main placement school was St Mary’s and knowing the school meant I felt comfortable in my surroundings and everyone was so willing to help me with any questions I had. My PGCE was the year of the first lockdown so by March, I was thrust into online learning and finishing off my teaching qualification through a computer screen. When the job at Hymers came up, I jumped at the opportunity to apply and come back to my old school.

What is your role at Hymers College?

I teach a bit of everything really. I take History, RE and Games in the Senior School and I teach History and Geography in the Junior School. I also have a Year 11 tutor group who I have had since Year 9. That is combined with me taking the U13A Girls and U13A Boys Hockey teams over the Winter (Girls) and Spring term (Boys). My saturdays in the summer are spent with the U13 Boys cricket team as their coach. I look back at my sporting commitments since I have returned to Hymers with a lot of fondness. Finishing third in Yorkshire in my first year of Girls Hockey (with the current Year 10) and going 11 games unbeaten (with the current Year 9) spring to mind as great achievements of teams I have coached on the sports pitch. I was lucky enough to take the all conquering U13’s for cricket last academic year and enjoyed seeing the potential that side have. They are going to be a special group of cricketers if they keep progressing like they are. We went unbeaten in block fixtures and were only defeated in the national cup at the picturesque Trent College.

What are your memories of former teachers who are now your colleagues?

I have SO many memories of staff, it is hard to not write an essay for this section! As a History teacher, I have to start by being taught by Dr Denton in Year 7. He really started off my passion for History, and it was always pleasing to hear about his Football Manager game he was playing at the time. If I remember correctly, he was trying to take FC Kaiserslautern to glory in Germany for most of Year 7.

I was in Mr Hickman’s form in Year 7 and 8, Mr Young in Year 9-11 and Mr Cadle in 6th form who are all still on the staff. I was very lucky to have three excellent form tutors during my time who always made mornings enjoyable. From 6th form, I always remember Mr Cadle being a big fan of the “Thank crunchie it’s Friday” advert. This advert came out before I was born, but this did not stop him giving one out most Fridays to a lucky member of our form.

I remember GCSE RE with Dr Smith and Mr Gaynor-Smith in the old T2. It was always freezing in the Winter!! I have lots of memories of those lessons, both men making sure we focussed on technique, technique and more technique. The word “because” crossed their mouths hundreds of times a lesson when they were teaching us how to answer exam questions. It’s great that I am now teaching the GCSE with Mr Gaynor-Smith 12 years after I was being taught it.

I was never the biggest fan of Maths, but GCSE with Dr Bennett in B3 springs to mind as she was always positive and pushed us all to be the best we could be. I was in Set 3 but Dr Bennett helped us thrive and put her all into our lessons to help every student come out with the best possible grade. My friends and I still talk about how much we enjoyed those lessons now.

Mr Whittaker in English is another teacher who always comes up when I meet friends. He is so knowledgeable about his subject and knows exactly how to get the best out of every type of student. I remember my GCSE class was quite a mixture of different students, but he made lessons relaxed and enjoyable for all. One main thing from my GCSE classes that always springs to mind. We studied “To Kill a Mockingbird” and just before study leave we were given some practice essays to do. The essay I chose ended up being on my actual GCSE exam a couple of weeks later. I remembered pretty much all I had written so recently and exactly the improvements I needed. I like to think that was Mr Whittaker’s psychic instinct helped me to get my A* in English Literature. I still regret not choosing English for A Level.

How does it feel to be back at the school?

I absolutely love being back at the school, I have so many fond memories of Hymers and I genuinely enjoy coming to work every day. Each day is different, and I am one of the lucky few who get to teach across both schools and really see both ends. As an OH, I am loving giving back to the next generation who are now coming through the school at a place that has given so much to me and helped shape me into the person I am today.

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