I still felt this melting pot of emotions at the beginning of every new class from grade school through college. My thoughts each year transitioned from “which of my friends are going to be in my class” to “what is the teacher going to be like?” Students learn very quickly that it is not so much the subject of the class, it is WHO is teaching the class. Not only do teachers share their knowledge on subjects, they also (and probably more importantly) help to mold a student’s attitude and thoughts about his or her own confidence, motivation to learn and determination to be filled with curiosity. I believe this starts day one, back in kindergarten or pre-school, when the young and innocent children first venture out and begin to learn from someone other than their own family. Teachers give new perspectives and shed new light on different topics and ideas. This is why teachers make such an impact on our lives, whether it is good or bad. Teachers are not only teaching a subject, they are the driving force behind the desire to never stop learning.
I am writing this to reach out and say “thank you” to all the amazing teachers I had from grade school to high school who inspired me and are one of the main reasons why I am who I am today. I often have people ask me if I was always good at math or if I have always loved math. I will say that I did always have an analytical brain and as a child I was bubbling with curiosity and wanted to know “why?” about everything. I know I drove my parents crazy during those early pre-Google years! Some people will say, “you just ‘get’ math.” I honestly do not believe that though, there have been plenty of other kids in my classes that “got it” way faster than I ever did and I had to work hard in my schooling to learn. I credit my mom working early with me, Sesame Street being the only children’s show we could get out on the ranch when I was little, but most importantly, I have my teachers to thank for where I am today and for the knowledge that I have about teaching mathematics.The essence of my own pedagogy stems from the teachers I had from grade school through high school.
I believe that a lot of people who say they “hate math” or just “aren’t good at math” either had a bad experience in a class, had a poor teacher (one who just had them try to memorize and taught to the test), or were once told that they were not good at math. Of course some people do understand it better than others, are just gifted in math, or learn it faster. However, I believe that everyone can learn math given enough time, patience and having a teacher who motivates them to stay determined to learn. Math confidence and ability starts early on, as early as Kindergarten. Grade school math is just as important as higher levels because it forms the foundation of math knowledge. If students have holes in their mathematical infrastructure, they will continue to struggle, have anxiety and stress over math.
I was fortunate to have incredible teachers (and not only in math) throughout the majority of my education. They challenged me, always made sure I turned in my best work and if I got discouraged with something, they did not give up on me. Their patience and effort to really help me understand and learn the concepts was incredible. If I made a mistake, they taught me what I did wrong instead of just marking it incorrect or having a computer grade it. They also made learning fun by being very interactive and visual. I was fortunate to only have a couple of instances where the teachers lacked this and did not leave me feeling fulfilled or confident in the classroom. In those classes, I soon “hated” that subject but thank goodness, I had enough amazing teachers around to not let this discourage me as I moved onto my next class.
I just wanted to write this to thank all of my amazing teachers from Estes Elementary, Marana Junior High and Marana High School. There is absolutely no way I would be where I was today if it were not for you. I hope this makes others out there realize how important their own teachers are and were to their own development. Thank you to: Mr. Ramon, Mrs. Bauer, Mrs. Lemke, Mrs. Arnt, Mrs. Bartch, Mrs. McClanahan, Mr. Lybeck, Mr. Miller, Mrs. Cirzan, Mr. Videbeck and many more!