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HOW I GOT HERE: A Math Teacher's Journey

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Growing up I loved school and learning. When my neighbors and I would play “school” in their tree house, I was always the teacher. If that wasn’t enough foreshadowing, my parents were also high school teachers for over 30 years. Every “Take Your Child to Work Day” I would visit my parents’ classrooms, sit at their desks and watch them change lives. While I couldn’t comprehend the concepts my parents taught, I would watch them interact with students and I knew that I wanted to do that too. My parents could not have been more different in their classrooms. Students loved my mom’s bubbly personality and helpful nature but they also connected with my dad’s dry sense of humor. My mother’s desk was complete chaos while my father’s was barren and neat, but each one had a style and system that worked for them. I like to think that I am the best of both of them.

Even in high school, I knew that I wanted to teach and decided on elementary so I could teach all of the subjects I loved. I volunteered in my fourth grade teacher’s classroom and fell in love with the age group, the content, and the creativity. But as I began my teaching degree, I realized that I craved the challenges of higher level content rather than managing kindergarteners’ meltdowns. So the question became, what content would I want to teach?

How I Got Here

Numbers are infallible. People’s opinions, perceptions, and interpretations cause conflict but numbers just…are. That’s why math intrigues me. Numbers cannot be argued with; it is our interpretations and emotions behind what the numbers represent in the world that cause us joy or strife. The number on the scale, the number in your bank account, the score on the court or field, the number at the gas station just exist. We determine if we are happy or sad about them.

My education journey is filled with stories and scars (one of my math teachers talked more about her horse, Thunderheart than lessons) but for the most part, I’ve been fortunate to have amazing math teacher role models. My mom was one of them. Watching her teach when I was six, seven, and eight years old was amazing. Her passion for the subject and her students was electric. You could feel it when you walked in her room. Of course I had no idea what she was talking about at that age, but it didn’t stop me from taking notes (and trying to organize her poor excuse for a desk). My fourth grade teacher was kind and compassionate but held extremely high standards. It was in her class that I made the decision to take learning and school seriously. My high school calculus teacher reminded me of my mom, which is probably why I liked her so much. She took the time to explain the why behind the procedures we follow and for me, that made all the difference. In order for knowledge to stick, I need to see the value and the connections. She taught in a way that helped me build my own connections with math.

So many grow up with math trauma - from their parents saying, “I could never do it,” and hearing messages that there are “math people” and “non-math people”. While teachers assigned hours of skill practice, timed tests and emphasizing memorizing formulas and procedures. As education evolved, math became the end instead of the means to an end. The system we created cares more about high test scores and less on creativity and problem solving. History’s mathematicians were creative, and revelled when something failed. They used that failure to get closer to success. Their wrong answers revealed more to them than right ones.

So Here I Am

A public high school math teacher, who strives to infuse creativity and problem solving back into the math classroom to hopefully instill values of perseverance and using failure as fuel to the next generation. Follow along as I reflect on my journey as an educator, share ideas and resources.


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