Custom Search 1

This 80-year-old Guyanese teacher inspired a generation

PIONEER: Leroy Trotz

THERE’S A growing popularity in people from underrepresented communities engaging in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector. In fact, the growth rate in the number of women graduates in physical science exceeded that of men in the UK in 2017.

And despite a need to increase inclusion within this field, we are seeing more organisations highlight the need for diversity within the STEM field and raise the profile of BAME grads engaging in various sciences.

One of the key black figures that have paved the way in STEM – long before the popular buzzword saturated our newsfeeds and social media streams – is Leroy Trotz.

Born in Guyana, Mr Trotz is an accomplished physicist and teacher, who previously occupied the role of deputy head master of the prestigious Bishops High School and headmaster at Queens College.

Despite the lack of resources and importance placed on STEM during Mr Trotz younger years in Guyana, his interest in physics began in the home and never waned.

“My interest in physics started after my brother who studied physics at Cambridge University. Some years before that, I started looking at some of his books and in those days in Guyana physics was only done at certain schools - in fact not all the schools had science labs,” he says.

“Despite this, I don’t ever think I felt there were limitations placed on me because I grew up believing I could do anything I wanted to. So I made decisions and took the challenge and pursued it from here.”

This perseverance and confidence led Mr Trotz to the UK, where he arrived in London from Guyana in 1961 and studied at the University of London. Following his time studying physics in England he and his brother, Clarence, returned home to Guyana and served in the Guyanese education system, teaching physics at various top secondary schools.

“I was particularly happy to be able to teach physics because it was a great experience,” he recalls. “I found it challenging in some respects as some students were extremely bright and others needed a whole lot of help. Who I enjoyed teaching the most where the people who needed my help because it was a welcomed challenge to get those persons who were not particularly interested at the beginning and to make sure that they were interested and to maintain that. To be able to help students who needed the help and appreciated it.”

Mr Trotz and his brother Clarence inspired generations of bright students to take on physics and science, often offering evening physics lessons to large number of students at most of the main schools in Georgetown.

This was a far cry from the 80-year-old’s upbringing and signified a shift in Guyana’s education system and its approach to STEM. He says: “Most of the schools now have a curriculum which enables them to do more science and technology more then ever before. As the government changes, the values change and the education system also changes to accommodate the new way of thinking.”

And this new way of thinking seems to be working. This year, Guyana became the first country in the Caribbean to have a national policy which emphasises the importance of science education, in conjunction with the launch of various initiatives, including the National Endowment for Science and Technology and The National Information and Communication Technology Strategy, which intended to provide the framework to guide the development of the ICT sector and ensure a greater presence of ICT in the classroom.

And while Mr Trotz recently celebrated his 80th birthday, it only serves as a reminder of his history as a STEM crusader who has inspired many throughout the years. Students often describe him as “engaging, approachable and well-respected” and is “gifted at simplifying difficult concepts and making them accessible to students.”

“Mr Trotz was a legend in our household teaching most of many seven siblings and I. My older siblings came home from school and told stories about Mr Trotz's classes. He was part of my education psyche well before I hit big school,” recalls one of his former students.

“I went on to study engineering and my brother did a PhD in semi conductor physics at a top university and two other siblings taught by Mr Trotz studied engineering. Even now I tell stories about the Trotz brothers to my children who are all pursuing interests in physics and engineering...there is no coincidence.”

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments