Kirkcaldy astronomer shifts her gaze towards teaching for new campaign

Anneila Sargent
Anneila Sargent
  • Teacher campaign
  • Star supporter
  • Kirkcaldy memories

World-renowned star gazer, Professor Anneila Sargent, might have an asteroid named after her, following a lifetime of looking skywards.

But, as a native of the Lang Toun, she has never forgotten the inspirational teacher she looked up to as a young girl.

We had wonderful teachers at (Kirkcaldy) High School.

Anneila Sargent

She recollected her teachers at Kirkcaldy High School as inspiring and superb role models – and for that reason, she is giving her backing to the Scottish Government’s #inspiringteachers campaign.

Announced last week by Angela Constance, Education Secretary, it is intended to encourage more teachers to enter the profession.

Sargent has spent most of her adult life in America and currently lives in California – but still remembers her teachers at Kirkcaldy High School.

“I liked maths, science and English, primarily because of the teachers,” she said.

“We had wonderful teachers at the High School –including inspiring female teachers who were great role models.

“But it’s only now that I’ve gone on to work in education that I realise just how tremendously useful and inspiring my secondary school years were.”

With a prestigious scientific reputation internationally, most notably in the field of star formation, Sargent has also written extensively on the possibility of other life forms existing beyond our solar system.

She said her physics teacher, Bill Ritchie, was one of her favourites and she remained friendly with him after she left school.

He tried to make physics as relevant to the girls as the boys, she recalled.

Leaving school in 1959, Sargent studied physics at Edinburgh University and later completed a PhD at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), despite encountering some barriers as a woman trying to break into the male-dominated science world.

She became Professor of Astronomy there in 1998 and was vice-president of student affairs for eight years. She was presented with the NASA Public Service Medal and now sits on the US National Science Board, the team advising Congress and US President Barack Obama.

She is, however, especially proud of the honorary degree (D. Sc.) she received by Edinburgh University in 2008.

Meanwhile, the recruitment campaign will focus particularly on attracting teachers to STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

Ms Constance also announce funding for projects to boost resources for schools in disadvantaged areas.

She said: “Teaching is a vital, highly-valued and rewarding profession, an opportunity to use your skills to shape the lives of the next generation.”

For more information about a career in teaching, visit