A new campaign aimed at attracting more teachers has been launched by the government, with a particular focus on STEM subjects. One of those backing the initiative is Dundonian millionaire, Chris van der Kuyl, who cites his teacher as helping him to reach his potential.
When a 14-year-old Chris came across a broken minicomputer from the 70s, the now multi-millionaire tech wizard was set on his path.
Part of the generation of entrepreneurs who helped put Scotland’s gaming industry on the map, Chris van der Kuyl’s name is synonymous with the best-selling computer game he created – State of Emergency.
However, back in the 1980s, he was just another teen full of potential.
Although he cites his father as a strong influence, the man responsible for helping him realise this potential – and for obtaining the minicomputer which van der Kuyl and his friends would eventually nurse back to working order - was his computer-science teacher, Jim Scott.
An early adopter of computers, Scott helped pioneer the use of computers at the secondary school which became one of the first schools in Scotland to offer a qualification in computer science. Not only this, but he started a computer club to which van der Kuyl would go every lunchtime learning how to programme and tinkering with the microcomputer and its huge filing cabinet of hard drives.
“With support from the rector, over a small period of time Mr Scott was able to build an incredible department – but to him it was about more than just delivering the curriculum,” says van der Kuyl.
“He made sure that our high levels of enthusiasm propelled us on a steep learning curve. He was also able to relate our love of computers with the core subjects behind it - science and maths - that has stood me in good stead to this day.”
Having already started programming work for local businesses as a teen, van der Kuyl went on to study computer science at The University of Edinburgh in 1991 - although he later transferring and graduated from Dundee University.
Proudly Dundonian, the 46-year-old rose to prominence in the late nineties building his business – VIS Entertainment - from a graduate start up consisting of ten employees to a multi-million pound firm with five offices employing 200 people.
Today he is the Chairman of the game developing company he started with his school friend, Paddy Burns, 4J Studios.
The name, explains van der Kuyl, comes from Dundee being the three ‘J’s – jute, jam and journalism…the fourth ‘j’ now being joysticks. Without Mr Scott, he admits, the fourth J might never have existed.
“If you ask most people working in the industry today, their critical influence has been someone in the teaching profession,” he says.
“There is no question that computer science teachers like the ones I had are not just important but essential for the Scottish technology industry. We need innovative teachers who are able to lead and take risks. Whilst you might get one or two individuals finding their way into the field on their own, without inspiring teachers you would not get the volume of talent that our community needs to grow”.
For more information about a career in teaching visit www.teachinscotland.org