Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Mathematics with Specialization in Statistics, M.A. in Teaching, University of California Irvine
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Master Teaching Fellow
Name of Noyce institution:
California State University Fullerton
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Oxford Academy and Cambridge Virtual Academy, Anaheim Unified School District, Anaheim, CA; Mathematics, grade 8; Statistics, grade 12
What made you decide to become a teacher?
After graduating from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), I worked as an actuarial analyst at an insurance company. The work was intellectually interesting, but I felt a void in myself and was not completely sure if this was the career I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. I started volunteering as a tutor at a group home on weekends; this was when I found my passion and calling for teaching and advocating for marginalized students. I returned to UCI to earn a master’s degree in education and a teaching credential. Since then, I have taught almost all levels of mathematics to students in grades 7 to 12 in diverse settings. About eight years into my teaching career, I enrolled in the Noyce Master Teacher Fellowship program at California State Fullerton (CSUF).
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I started my teaching career at Brookhurst Junior High School in the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) and taught there for 13 years. Teaching at Brookhurst was a special gift because this is where I learned that ALL students can learn and succeed. It is a majority-minority school with Hispanic/Latino students making up 82% of the population. 85% of the students are considered economically disadvantaged. In 2009, I started a Math Club and provided opportunities for the students to expand their problem-solving skills and to aim high. Some students from the Club moved on to study at UCLA, Harvey Mudd, and Harvard. I had amazing students who taught me so much. I spoke about my special experience of Transforming Problems into Privileges at Better Together: California Teachers Summit in 2018.
In 2016, I transferred to Oxford Academy where I teach both middle and high school students. I am also the chair of the math department. My current assignments are AP Statistics, Statistics & Probability and 8th grade mathematics. In addition, I teach at the district’s new school, Cambridge Virtual Academy, where we incorporate innovative teaching strategies emphasizing 5 Cs (Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Compassion) and 21st century skills. At Oxford, 68% of the students come from homes where English is not the primary language and 33 different languages are spoken by the student body. In my 8th grade math classes, I try to help students see themselves as mathematical thinkers and problem solvers by utilizing math talk strategies and cooperative learning activities. In my Statistics classes, I challenge my students to apply what they have learned into social justice projects where they use mathematical and statistical knowledge to formulate critical questions and explore solutions to the issues that are relevant to their own lives and communities. Through these projects, students get the opportunities to make their knowledge come alive and to empower themselves to become critical thinkers and innovative problem solvers. I believe that all these efforts contribute to helping my students to develop a positive mathematical identity and see the role of mathematics in their own lives. Additionally, I volunteer as the advisor for the STEM-Math Club and Computational Modeling Club (CMC) at Oxford Academy. Recently my CMC team placed as one of the twelve national finalists at the Modeling the Future Challenge, where they demonstrated their math modeling and data analysis skills in solving real-world problems. It is rewarding to know that I am providing opportunities to my students and supporting them in the process of achieving their dreams. I am excited to know that these students will grow to be the innovative and compassionate leaders in our society.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce Master Teaching Fellow program was one of the best things that happened to me. I was part of the CSUF MT2 Noyce program from 2010-2014 and in 2016 joined the ATMALA (Advancing Teachers of Mathematics to Advance Learning for All) Noyce program. I was motived to apply because the program would support me to earn National Board Certification. It was something I had always wanted to do but had put off due to lack of time and support. In 2014, I became a National Board Certified teacher–one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences. These two Noyce programs have inspired and shaped me to be the teacher I am today. I have learned about so many different aspects of teaching. I earned my National Board Certification and expanded my leadership capacities. I now have a much better understanding of how to strategically blend relevant social and community issues within my math curriculum to help students realize how mathematics can inspire and empower them beyond the classroom walls.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
One of the things I focus on at the beginning of the school year is helping students see themselves as mathematicians and understand the value of math in their own lives. I start by asking them to share their “Math Story” with me. They describe their journey and experiences learning mathematics. Their authentic stories give me insight into their experiences with learning mathematics, and this insight helps me to better understand their needs and strengths. I put an emphasis on creating a learning environment that promotes collaboration and compassion. I intentionally design activities that are community and culture building. One strategy I learned from Dr. Mark Ellis was to ask students to share the stories behind their names. It could be their first, middle, last name, or even a nickname. We learn about each other and develop a deeper connection and compassion for each other, which builds a foundation for a supportive classroom community. Once the students and I establish a mutually respectful classroom culture, all can learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
Being a teacher allows me to be a lifelong learner and try something new every year. When I implement what I have learned into my classroom and see the impact firsthand, it keeps me motivated to continue to learn and grow as a teacher. Even though the content and standards do not change much year after year, I get to experiment with new instructional strategies and pedagogy that can bring content to life for my students.
Culturally responsive teaching is a primary focus in the ATMALA group at CSUF with Dr. Mark Ellis. This has helped me to make the content more relevant and accessible to my students. Students have opportunities to draw on their funds of knowledge and make their voices heard through the tasks and projects that are culturally responsive.
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?
The Noyce experience really challenged me to go beyond my classroom walls and to expand my capacity. I have had the opportunity to present at district, state, and national conferences and workshops. I have been serving as a master teacher to many teacher candidates and have developed professional development micro-credential modules through the ATMALA program at CSUF. It is an amazing feeling to know that I can make a difference in the lives of students that I may never meet by sharing my experience and insight with other teachers of mathematics.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
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 MAA in 2019 because of the heartfelt nomination letters from my students. Read some quotes from their letters:
- “From the very first day of school, Ms. Min has made her classes much more than just learning mathematics. She challenges us to think outside the box…”
- “Ms. Min brings a much more constructive mood towards learning to students, and helps us actually learn, building important character in us.”
- “I can really tell that Ms. Min is passionate about math, and I admire how she shares her passion with her students.”