Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: BA Physics; MAT
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Secondary Mathematics
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Noyce Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
Math for America Los Angeles
Current academic or teaching status:
First year of teaching
School and school district:
Central Los Angeles High School # 9
Hello! Just to tell you a little bit about me…I was born and raised in Hawai`i on the island of Oahu. I came to California to study at Occidental College. At Oxy, I spent a lot of time with an organization called the Scientific Scholars Achievement Program. This organization is a student run institution that supports underrepresented students in STEM majors. It was though this organization and a course on Math, Education, and Access to power that really got me headed towards a career in education.
Why do you want to teach:
There are many reasons why I want to teach. One of the main reasons why is because I LOVE the “ahhh,” moment. During my first week as an official teacher, I did an activity with my classes on breaking apart patterns and deriving an equation to represent a numerical pattern. One group of ladies struggled with figuring out how to translate the pattern in their table into an equation. We talked about breaking it into steps and starting off with a scripted explanation about how to get to the “y column” from the “x column.” After writing their sentence, the ladies sat looking at their papers for a few seconds. One of the students I was working with was becoming visually frustrated by the complexity of the problem when all of a sudden, I saw her eyes lift. Her expression shifted from bothered to ecstatic. She smiled before she even looked up and announced the equation for the pattern to her partners with a strong and confident voice. Being a part of that experience is exhilarating and it’s one part of what makes me want to be involved with learning.
Another reason why I want to be a teacher is because I have experienced the difference one teacher can make. When I entered high school, I was put on a track for low academic success. I was placed in a remedial math class with many upperclassmen who the system had failed multiple times. The environment was ridiculous to say the least. All I can recall about that class was that there was a LOT of socializing…all the time. A couple months into the semester, the teacher pulled me on the side and told me she was setting me up to join the more advanced math class downstairs. I don’t think I had ever had a teacher have an active belief in my academic aptitude. I’m not sure if this was the moment in my life that made me decide to try in school, but it was definitely at this point in my life when things started to change. I felt like I needed to prove myself; I wanted to learn, and I wanted to show people what I had learned. I believe I am a better person with higher cognitive functions because I was validated with the challenge of more advanced mathematics. There are a TON of students who are in the same position I was when I was in high school…As cliche as it sounds, I want to be a teacher because I believe that teachers can and do make differences every single day.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
During my student teaching, I taught in a class that had a very traditional set-up. The students quietly took notes as the instructor lectured and assigned problems from the text. Going into this environment was difficult for me because I believe that students need to be actively engaged in their learning. At first, it felt like a pointless battle–I would introduce what I thought were critical and challenging activities that would guide students to investigate the mathematics around them, but was met with opposition and a disregard for the type of math I was having students do. As time went on and the students became more comfortable with me and I got to learn more about them, I was surprised at how the environment of the classroom changed. The first time I saw this change was when we were working on a real world application about logarithms. After I introduced the task and the information students would be solving, the students were immediately engaged in the activity. I was surprised because normally I would have to go around and get groups started by prompting them with questions about what they should be doing. This moment is memorable to me because I felt like I had been a part of the development of curious problem solvers.
I think many students, especially students who are marginalized by society, develop a negative relationship with mathematics. I think this happens in part because the students who are marginalized are not given images by media or history that portrays people like them as mathematicians. For these students, gaining proactive problem solving skills is the basis for them to continue on in mathematics and higher education.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
The Noyce teaching fellowship has helped me in many ways. After graduating from Occidental College, I had no way to pay for a teacher credential program without incurring a huge debt. Other fields that would be able to pay me immediately were beginning to look very appealing, despite my passion for education. This Noyce fellowship has really helped me financially.
Math for America Los Angeles is the specific program that my fellowship is hosted under. This program has provided professional developments that have helped me with everything from creating syllabi to lesson planning, and working with administrations. Math for America Los Angeles has also facilitated a sense of community among the 40 fellows. The other teachers I have worked with have helped me through the most challenging situations and been extremely supportive. I have observed many teachers who are isolated from other teachers and resources…I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of a larger group. Being able to lesson plan with other teachers and get immediate feedback about how to improve a task or how to address a situation has been invaluable to me.
The professional staff of Math for America Los Angeles has also been provided extra materials and support. What I appreciate most about the staff is their positive, yet critical critique of my development. As a new teacher, sometimes I worry that my lessons are not hitting enough key material, students are not engaged enough, or my pacing is terribly off. The professional staff in Math for America Los Angeles has helped me by offering practical solutions that I have used in my classroom.
After going through student teaching and beginning a school year, I really cannot imagine what it would be like to not have the support of a program like Math for America Los Angeles. Being a teacher is really really difficult work. From planning to grading, working with parents and administrators, and navigating through the politics of school and school districts, this program has helped me in more ways than is possible to explain. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that I have been given access to through the Noyce teaching fellowship.