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, email@example.com.
Hardy Middle School, Washington, DC, Mathematics (grades 6-8) and Special Education
I use a variety of strategies to get to know each of my students. In the first weeks of school, I gather data on how they commute to and from school, what they do in their free time, if they have siblings and/or pets, what it looks like where they do homework. Then I gather data about their approaches to solving rich math tasks – how are their foundational skills, how do they interact with peers? The better I know students, the better I can anticipate pain points of lessons and then plan lessons that engage them in class work that is appropriate for their cognitive load levels. I tell them stories about my life, I praise them for work that they do well, correct them when they need redirection. Through this process, we establish a learning environment that rewards growth and engagement.
Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland, CA; Algebra 1 and 2, Data Science (an alternative to Algebra 2) (8th-12th grade)
A first step in supporting all students is to try to make it less about me and more about them. I want to allow students to be who they are, and to feel comfortable being who they are in the classroom. I want to hear their voices as much as possible so I try to establish a culture where all students feel comfortable sharing their math thinking, where we appreciate different ways of seeing and approaching the math, where mistakes are celebrated rather than causing embarrassment. I sometimes allow students significant leeway in terms of behavior or ways of expressing themselves. I believe students come to understand my classroom as a place where they can be themselves, but avoid crossing lines not because they will be punished, but because they understand the importance of maintaining a learning environment.
Montrose High School, Montrose, SD; Advanced Biology, Biology, Conceptual Chemistry, Conceptual Physics, Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, and Chemistry (grades 9-12)
The Noyce REMAST (Rural Enhancement of Mathematics and Science Teachers) program at South Dakota State University (SDSU) focuses on getting the very best STEM educators into rural districts. As the only science teacher in my district when I started, I had no one to talk to, no opportunities for collaboration or to get other ideas. My SDSU professors were some of the first people I would go to for advice. They maintained their connections with me and pushed me to get involved in professional communities, like NSTA, and take on leadership positions. In 2019 I was a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.
Roberto Clemente Community Academy, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL; Science (grade 9)
The Noyce program taught me how to teach science in a way that would promote curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, and empathy in the students learning it. More than that, the Noyce program showed that science should be exciting and explorative for students--not a means of bogging them down with memorization tasks. So many students come into the school with the idea that they “aren’t good at science”, and Noyce has prepared me to tackle that with encouragement and relevancy. This helps me bridge connections for students between what they are learning in my class and what is happening in their other classes--especially the CTE (career and technical education) courses they might take as upperclassmen!
James Bowen High School, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL; Physics and Chemistry (grades 10-11)
I’d say that the most valuable thing I received from the Noyce program at Loyola University was experience. Again, there’s nothing that can prepare you for the day-to-day other than doing it. There’s a gap between a well-crafted framework for teaching and the realization of student potential. Content and pedagogy are important, but engaging the world in which students live and interact is far more effective than dogged adherence to a structure. I think the most vital thing I picked up through Noyce is that flexibility, improvisation, and student interest are necessary to a holistic practice.
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.