We are pleased to highlight Noyce alumni who are making a difference in high-need schools. If you would like to recommend an alumni from a Noyce program, please contact Betty Calinger, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oxford Academy and Cambridge Virtual Academy, Anaheim Unified School District, Anaheim, CA; Mathematics, grade 8; Statistics, grade 12
My students are the greatest highlights and the most special achievements in my teaching career. I have so many students who make me proud that just thinking about their faces or names makes me emotional. They let me know that I made a difference in their lives and that makes me keep going when I get down. Additionally, my students are the ones who teach me to learn about my own shortcomings and personal biases. My students are my best teachers and encourage me to keep pushing myself to be a better teacher and a better person. One recognition that was special to me was winning the Edyth May Sliffe Award from the Mathematics Association of America in 2019 because of the heartfelt nomination letters from my students.
U-32 Middle & High School, Washington Central Unified Union School District, Montpelier, VT; Geometry, Algebra II, Alternative Special Education Program
Noyce brought to my attention the importance of access in education and motivated my subsequent study of the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) framework. From the tasks I implemented, to the needs of my students from various backgrounds, to trauma-informed teaching, I found preparation in many forms as I sought to be a more culturally responsive educator. I remember fondly the rich discussions in seminars with UVM MAT faculty Colby Kervick and Barri Tinkler, where the power of scaffolding learning came to light. I was forced to confront my own subjectivities and how they manifest in what I perceive to be culturally normative. Noyce forced me to look within myself and within my pedagogical choices to make sure the learner is at the forefront.
Unity Point Elementary School, Carbondale, IL; Introduction to Physics & Chemistry (5th grade); Earth/Space Science & Environmental Problem Solving (6th grade)
Since Southern Illinois University has a large international population I regularly work with a great diversity of people. Working with diverse students requires me to be open to many different approaches and examples and to find opportunities to draw on the history of many different cultures, not just the European traditions. Whenever possible, I have parents from other cultures share their experiences and expertise with my students. I also draw on students from places around the world as we investigate earth and environmental science to bring their experiences into the classroom. In science, it is natural to learn through experience which helps break down language barriers.
Kalaheo High School, Kailua, HI; Algebra I, Physical Science (9th grade)
In my classroom, there are students who have lived in Hawaii their entire life, as well as many who have moved around the country their entire life because family members are in the military. This makes an interesting challenge for a teacher. I want to incorporate as much of the Hawaiian culture as I can and also support those students who have traveled so much. I try to learn a lot from my native Hawaiian students about their culture, since I am new to the island and have so much to learn. I also make sure to encourage and support my military family students. As a military spouse, I have experience with that life. I try to include math and science problems that mention aspects of each “culture,” and make sure that I give ample time to ask questions that are related to content and context.
City Charter High School, Pittsburgh, PA; Interactive Mathematics Program, Year 3 (11th grade)
What I always say when someone asks me about my ability to teach in a culturally responsive way is that it is a continuous process. My Noyce program helped me to understand the components of culturally responsive teaching, but more on how to reflect on my use of them. I reflect on my lessons almost daily and think about the lesson, what I say or do, how I say or do it. I try to think about what those things are saying to my students, and at times directly ask them. I am on a journey of being a better and more culturally responsive teacher and know that I am nowhere near the end of that journey. That reflection process came directly from my Noyce experiences, and I am thankful for that.
South Hills Middle School, Twin Falls, ID; Earth Science (6th grade) and Life Science (7th grade)
In the SWARMS program, we learned to build a student-centered classroom and to reflect on how best to address student diversity. Reflection is key. I try to be open and responsive to all of my students, inviting them to share their culture with one another. Middle school can be a hard place because students do not want to be different or stand out, however, if someone helps them realize that their difference makes them special, this can change their perspective. I try to help them see they are special in a multitude of ways. It’s not always easy, being open has also meant that sometimes I have to challenge my own beliefs and biases. Students in middle school want to learn from someone who makes them feel special. They want to live up to the positive expectations that you have and thrive on positive attention.
Barbara Jordan High School for Careers, Houston, TX; Engineering Math (12th grade) and Geometry (11th grade)
This school year, I am teaching Engineering Math to 12th graders and Geometry to 11th graders at the Barbara Jordan H.S. for Careers. The campus serves 9 Title I high schools in the Houston Independent School District. Students can become certified in specific programs by the time they graduate. The programs include Child Development, Culinary Arts, Marketing Entrepreneurship, Process Technology, Automotive, Welding, Cosmetology, Auto Tech, Health Science, and Government and Diplomacy. Since my students can be in any of these programs, I try to include mathematical examples that are relevant to their fields of study. This year I have learned a lot (and still learning) about teaching virtually and trying to include the enrichment that goes with hands-on learning.
Brainerd High School, Hamilton County (TN) School District; Algebra II, State Dual Credit Pre-calculus
My Noyce program sponsored a professional development opportunity where we discussed meeting students where they are and the importance of being an informed teacher. Many of my students have experienced unbelievable trauma in their lives; many have difficulty expressing themselves. Learning about de-escalation techniques was extremely helpful. I learned to address the root of the emotion rather than the behavior. I learned that many of my students acted out not as a way to make my life difficult, but because they had a hard time coping with other events in their life. Learning how to meet the emotional needs of kids helped me to have better relationships with them and to spend less time correcting behavior and more time teaching.
Hoboken High School, Hoboken, NJ; Biomedical Sciences, grades 9-12
The biggest lesson the teaching program taught me was to make the classroom have the feeling of a community—like a home. Students should feel a sense of responsibility toward each other and to the overall progress of the classroom. By accomplishing individual tasks, the students can experience community, interdependence, group work, and cooperation which will carry over to other aspects of practical living. I believe the key words for describing student tasks are “important” and “constructive.” Students should know whether their actions and opinions impact the classroom or not. Students must be given enough responsibility and see that they are a vital part of the classroom “body.”
Cypress Ridge High School, Cypress-Fairbanks I.S.D, Houston TX; Biology and Biology for ESL students
When teaching in a cross-cultural setting, it is imperative to learn about students: who are they, how do I pronounce their names correctly (apologizing when I mispronounce it the first time and practice to get their name right next time), what are their strengths, what experiences do they bring to my class, how am I going to help all students to learn this content, and other information that helps me to understand the social emotional aspect of my students. In order to ensure that all my students learn, the foundations of learning are established in the first week--for me the most important week of the school year. During this time, my focus is on learning about my students and building relationships.
Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk, Houston, TX, 7th Grade Scientific Decision-Making
I try to use what I have learned during the Noyce program in my classroom, in particular, those strategies gained during the meetings/trainings. They have been useful for engaging all students and getting everyone to participate in some way. One strategy I use quite often that I learned last summer is the 3-2-1 strategy. This usually comes at the end of a lesson or unit where the students write down three things they learned, two questions (or ideas) they still have, and one thing they are still wondering about. I love this strategy because it is a good way to see how the students felt about the lesson and to clear up any questions or misconceptions they might still have.
Booker T. Washington H.S., Norfolk, VA, Math Interventionist (Algebra 2 and Math Analysis)
Two courses were especially helpful at Virginia Tech. As an undergraduate, “Race, Class, and Gender” opened my eyes to how inequitable our public school system was and encouraged my desire to contribute to change. In graduate school, a course taught by Dr. Pitts Bannister, focused on diversity, forced me to productively struggle with how others see me, how I see others, and the significance of seeing, celebrating, and being able to support all students. The course instilled the importance of researching backgrounds and histories before making judgments.