Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Physics, Tougaloo College; M.S. Math Education, Prairie View A&M University
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Master Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Barbara Jordan High School for Careers, Houston, TX; Engineering Math (12th grade) and Geometry (11th grade)
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I have always had a passion for helping others learn. As a teenager, I taught Sunday School classes to younger children and throughout my middle and high school years did tutoring to help others learn math and science. After I graduated from Tougaloo College with a degree in Physics, I worked in the corporate world for a little while. This did not satisfy my desire to help others learn so I decided to follow my passion of becoming a teacher. I earned a master’s of math education from Prairie View A&M University.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
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. My Engineering math classes are supposed to be more hands on. 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. My classes have done virtual tours, virtual energy conferences and simple experiments at home. The students are learning about many different STEM fields and the math that goes along with it.
I think this year has been one of my most challenging years yet one of my best years. Teaching virtually is taking me through the excitement of being a new teacher a second time. There is still so much to learn and expose my students to.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
I entered my first Noyce Program in 2006 at Rice University. It was a Math Leadership program that taught us how to become campus and district math leaders while continuing as teachers. After completing my four years with this program, I was asked to share my experience and expertise with the second and third cohort of Noyce Fellows joining the program.
Some years later, I was invited to apply for the Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program at Rice so have been a part of the Noyce Fellow family for many years. The Noyce program prepared me to reach and to teach students in multiple ways. We learned about cultural diversity and how to include all children. We went through the AVID training which addressed many mathematics concepts to make sure we know how to prepare students for college and beyond.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
Yes. The Noyce teachers at Rice were provided a Cultural Awareness Seminar during one of our summer trainings. The presenter was from the Culturally Diverse Center at the university. The training was very intense; it made us address the negative stereotypical racism that we encounter or give off without really thinking about it. Also, the Noyce teachers that I work with are of diverse cultures so by working together, we learned about each other’s background. This taught us to be culturally aware and to use culturally responsive teaching when guiding our students.
I started teaching 22 years ago and have always taught in a cross-cultural setting. I could not single out a group of students and teach to them only. I use Maslow’s Learning Theory to try and help each student to meet his/her full potential. Instruction is differentiated to meet the needs of different learning styles. For example, when I teach students how to factor, I use Algebra Tiles to teach those who need a direct hands-on experience. Some students learn it better by using pencil and paper. I have a large set of virtual algebra tiles on the Smart Board or a set on individual laptops. After the students are comfortable with factoring, I show them how to use the graphing calculator to find the factors for factoring. I also use graphic organizers, anchor charts, word walls, interactive notebooks and any other kind of strategy that I think will help my students learn the mathematics.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
I incorporate what I have learned into my everyday teaching. I not only teach my students the district mandated curriculum but also extend their learning so that they can become better thinkers and problem solvers. This summer I participated with other Noyce Master Teachers and our director Anne Papakonstantinou in virtually teaching an energetic group of middle school teachers. This experience helped me greatly and showed me how to teach virtually. We met many times, practiced, prepared, and then met again. The message being sent was that you must practice and prepare for your students—they deserve the very best of who you are. I am still modeling that concept into this school year because it is my job to do my best and to make sure I know the content so that I can fully teach my students.
In addition to teaching, are you exploring new areas in content, teaching strategies, leadership, etc. If so, what areas and did the Noyce experience play a role?
My Noyce experience always encouraged me to go above and beyond. This past school year I decided to add two more certifications to my credentials. I already had a Mathematics certification (6th – 12 grade) and a Principal Certification (K-12th grade). I added a Special Education certification (K – 12th grade) and ESL (English as a Second Language) Supplemental certification (K-12th grade). The certification exams for Special Education and ESL were challenging, but I was encouraged to continue and achieved my goal.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
Within my first four years of teaching, I was selected as school level Teacher of the Year, Algebra 1 lead Teacher, won an ENRON Math Teacher of Excellence Award, and a local math teacher award. I was recently a panelist for the Voices from the Field presentation at the 2020 Noyce Virtual Summit. As mentioned earlier, I have been teaching for 22 years. I never stop adding new knowledge; I never stop learning.