Noyce Scholar Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: MAT Mathematics Education
Subject area(s) and grade level teaching focus: Mathematics, grades 9-12
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Master Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
California State University, Santa Bernardino Noyce Fellowship Program
Current academic or teaching status:
Teaching since 1997
School and school district:
Adelanto High School, Victor Valley Union High School District Union High School/VVUHSD
I grew up in the High Desert of California and wanted badly to leave it. I was always a good student and strived for excellence. Being in the top 10% of my high school, I left the High Desert to go to college at University of California San Diego I ended up coming back for family reasons, but was happy to learn from the professors at California State University Santa Bernardino. That small community allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my mathematics. I graduated in the Winter of 1997 and began teaching through Claremont Graduate University as an intern in the Fall of that year. Having an affinity for teaching, I’m still in the game trying to learn how to teach the students of today.
Why do you want to teach:
Regardless of where I am, I love the fact that I have the ability to teach math and learn from my students. I am always searching for ways to help them understand better, even if that means listening to them for a change. As educators we must understand that learning is life long and that we can all learn from each other. Being able to be patient and trying to learn from our students, in particular, how they learn, will only make us better teachers. I feel that I have been placed in this role for a reason, and I am happy that I am here.
Describe a memorable teaching experience:
Wow…I’ve got 16 years to think of one memorable teaching experience…hmmm. There are so many, but I will share a most recent experience that ties back to 2003 when I taught at Fontana High School. I was teaching AVID, Algebra I for ELs, and Algebra II. I have always been a teacher who tries to reach students so they can be successful. Last week, one of those students who is now in his mid-20’s called to ask me “Why did I reach out to him?” He used to come to my Algebra II class at Fontana High with a hoody on and headphones on his ears trying desperately not to be there. Sometimes he would even doze off in class. I only had two African-American male students in that class that yearso there was no way I would let him go by unnoticed. I asked him to see me after class to make sure he knew that I saw him. I pointed out that he must have some kind of mathematical ability because as a senior, he wouldn’t be in Algebra II trying to get math credits to graduate; he would be in a business math class like most students in Fontana who were like him. I let him know that he could still pass the class if he would just wake up enough to pay attention, re-take his exams and study for the ones to come. He asked me, “Are you being honest? Do I really have a chance? Because if I do Ms. James, I will try.” I assured him that he did and from that day on he came in after school for tutoring, re-took his exams and passed the class. He called to say thanks because he felt that if it weren’t for me he would not have woken up in time to graduate from high school. I thanked him for taking the time to share his appreciation, but said that he ultimately did all of the work to graduate himself. His sincere appreciation and admiration for me made me realize that I have a great job. Even though we fight with our students most of the time, eventually what is shared with them besides the content will sink in. That student is now in Brooklyn, NY making music for various rap artists, including Lil’ Wayne. I know this isn’t a very mathy story, but it is a teaching experience that I will never forget.
What does the Noyce program mean to you:
I have only participated as a Noyce Fellow for one year, but being a part of this program keeps me excited about teaching. We are focused on how students learn and this is a question that I ask myself every day so that I will be able to deliver the right lesson in the most effective way. Delivering a lesson doesn’t always mean to be in front of the class lecturing. It can also mean that I may be just walking around the room watching my students learn through investigations. Thank you Noyce for giving me the opportunity to work with people who understand the power of education and have a love for helping their students learn.