Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: BS, Molecular Biology; BBA, Management Information Systems
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Mathematics, grades 6-12
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Fifth year or post-baccalaureate Noyce scholar
Name of Noyce institution:
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Current academic or teaching status:
School and school district:
Sheboygan South High School, Sheboygan, WI
I grew up in Beloit, WI and graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in 1983. My middle school Social Studies teacher, Mr. Lawry, taught us the two reasons why we are in school–to learn and to learn how to learn. I carry that lesson with me today as I prepare to become a teacher. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1987 with a degree in Molecular Biology with hopes of continuing my studies. I worked in the dormitory cafeterias to pay tuition and living expenses. This was one of my first experiences as a teacher or leader when I became a supervisor of the student workers. I trained workers on their jobs and was responsible for making sure the work was done well, and the kitchen and dining rooms were kept very clean. It was a valuable experience to learn how to teach and motivate others all while taking a full slate of classes. After graduation, I worked in retail while deciding on graduate school or another career. I worked my way up to be a head supervisor of the cashiers and was responsible for hiring, training and scheduling for a large retailer in Madison. As I began to work in other areas of the store, I became familiar with the computer systems and store operations. My two best friends were involved in Information Technology at other firms and this helped me decide to go back to school for another degree. In 1995, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee with a degree in Management Information Systems. During my last year, I had an internship at the Wisconsin Health Information Network in the Customer Service department. We were responsible for installing the software on client’s computers and also training the medical office staff from each site on the use of the system. It was gratifying to work with professionals and have hands-on experience with an important addition to their business. I graduated with honors and then joined a company in Waukesha as a software developer and systems integrator. A large part of my job was behind a computer screen, but I was also able to work with the customers in testing, training and support of their systems. I really enjoyed working with the users in all parts of the country. I found out they come with varying levels of experience and knowledge about computer systems. After more than 10 years in the IT field, I began to imagine myself as a math teacher. I enjoyed problem solving, trouble shooting and training others, and I thought I could use those skills in the class room. While working as a software consultant traveling across the country, I found out that my local school district was in need of substitute teachers. I obtained my substitute license, started teaching and was hooked! Enrolling in the ACT! Program through University of Wisconsin, Fox Valley started me on a course to fulfill my desire of becoming a teacher. I have met many wonderful students and instructors through the program. I have continued as a substitute teacher in a number of school districts. I believe this experience in teaching children from K to 12 has given me enough background to student teach and complete the requirements for licensure.
Why do you want to teach:
One of my goals in becoming a teacher is to foster life-long learning in my students. My seventh grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Lawry, told us almost every day the two reasons we were in school–to learn and to learn how to learn. I also believe that setting high standards for every student will help them stretch to meet these goals.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
“I am a teacher.” I was a substitute teacher in a kindergarten class in Sheboygan last spring and the students were talking about jobs. A child turned to me and asked me what I did for a job. As I was formulating a response to include my work as a software consultant, student and substitute teacher, I heard myself answer, “I am a teacher.” I felt proud at that moment to identify myself with my goal of becoming a math teacher.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
My interest and desire to teach mathematics in the middle or high school comes from my experience as a computer programmer. Among other duties, I was in charge of the financial system for my company and its parent company in another city. When a user would uncover an error, I was called to track it down and provide a solution. Of course the user was never the source of the error! I would talk with the user to gather information of the nature of the error: when did they notice the error, what they were doing when the error occurred, was it anything unusual, what was the expected outcome, what was the actual outcome and has this happened before. This problem solving evolved into training users in better ways to avoid mistakes and also to follow a protocol to help me when the odd error popped up. I felt that in better training the user, they would have an understanding of the system, not just what an icon on the screen did. I learned from them and they learned from me. The users were happier with the system and better equipped to get their jobs done in an efficient manner. I was no longer an isolated programmer; I was a resource and a teacher. After becoming a software consultant, I had the opportunity to do a few structured classes for clients. It felt great to share my knowledge with them and help them out. My feedback was very positive and even after the class I would get calls or emails asking questions about other problems or offered suggestions to enhance their training. These experiences and the experience I have had as a substitute teacher have helped me decide to pursue teaching mathematics in a middle or high school. I have had the opportunity to teach in small communities like Kohler and Oostburg and also in the Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls school districts. I have seen a variety of class sizes and cultural diversity. My degrees in Molecular Biology and Management Information Systems coupled with my professional work in IT for more than 13 years have prepared me to give my students a perspective from the working world. I look forward to helping educate the next generation of students.