Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Mathematics, M.A. Teaching
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Kalaheo High School, Kailua, HI; Algebra I, Physical Science (9th grade)
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I grew up with two teachers as parents which initially turned me away from teaching. Everyone told me that teaching was in my blood, and that I would eventually become an educator like my parents. I wanted to be my own person and go in another direction, but it turned out that everyone was right. I enrolled at Clarkson University as a mathematics major but wanted to see if I would be interested in engineering. I got a job on campus as a teaching assistant and absolutely fell in love with teaching–helping students reach that “aha” moment and have a better understanding. That led me to look at graduate programs in education which brought me to the Noyce program at Clarkson University
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I teach at a Kalaheo High School, a public school on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Some of our students have limited access to basic necessities and need assistance with technology and Internet access during this time of distance and hybrid learning. About 21% of our students live in low-income households. The school is near a Marine base which impacts the student population. About 19% are native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 40% white and the rest of the students are Hispanic, Asian, Black, or Native American. I work mostly with 9th graders who are new to the school, I am brand new as well, having moved from New York in May 2020. Our school population is very transient because of the Marine base and the population of Oahu is quite transient itself. I must adjust to teaching students who may arrive or leave in the middle of the school year depending on parent employment, as well as maintain consistency with students who will spend their entire high school career at Kalaheo. I teach both math and science—I took the opportunity to teach physical science, a subject outside of my background to push my limits and stretch my comfort zone. I work with an amazing group of people and have had a very interesting first year of teaching both virtually and in a hybrid model. Some of our students needed assistance with technology and Internet access during this time of distance and hybrid learning.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce program prepared me for my assignment by creating a great network of people to lean on in difficult times. I am still in contact with my fellow Noyce scholars so we can share stories about our first year and talk about everything that is happening in public education right now. I learned from an amazing advisor, Seema Rivera, (along with Katie Kavanagh and Ben Galluzzo) as well as all of the practicing teachers we met during the Noyce program. It helped me to build a professional foundation before I finished graduate school and have a network of outstanding people that I am still in contact with today!
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
With the Noyce program having an emphasis on high-need schools in all areas, I feel as though I was prepared well for culturally responsive teaching. These skills have been extremely useful in my first job in Hawaii where the culture is extremely different from Central New York where I’m from as well as the Capital Region of New York.
In my classroom, there are many students who have lived in Hawaii their entire life, as well as many who have moved around the country their entire life because family members are in the military. This makes an interesting challenge for a teacher. I want to incorporate as much of the Hawaiian culture as I can and also support those students who have traveled so much. I try to learn a lot from my native Hawaiian students about their culture, since I am still new to the island and have so much to learn. I also make sure to encourage and support my military family students. As a military spouse, I have experience with that life. I try to include math and science problems that mention aspects of each “culture,” and make sure that I give ample time to ask questions that are related to content and context.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
I use what I learned during the Noyce program every day in my classroom. Noyce emphasized teaching the whole student, not just teaching math and science to students. I learn more about my students every day and teach them to be good and caring people, not just how to be mathematicians and scientists. I use my knowledge of content and pedagogy to create engaging and thought-provoking lessons to engage the whole student and learner. I hope that I help them gain more interest in the topics along the way. I also used what I learned to make sure that I am focusing on the well-being of my students, not just pushing through content. This was especially important during our first semester that was fully distance learning. It was necessary to make sure that my students knew how much their feelings meant to me; I continue to do this as we are in a hybrid model.
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?
This year, I dove into a new role as a science teacher on top of being a brand-new math teacher. My background is completely in mathematics, but I wanted to take on this role as a physical science teacher in order to push my personal boundaries and get out of my comfort zone. The Noyce program really helped me prepare through my fellow scholars who are in the area of science. They have proven to be great resources if I have any questions or want to brainstorm ideas for lessons and activities. I also have an amazing resource in Seema, who has been so supportive throughout my Noyce experience!
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
Since this is my first year of teaching, I feel as though I don’t have much to share. I think that my opportunity to teach science is an achievement–I am grateful that my administration and hiring team had confidence in me as a first-year mathematics teacher to take on a new subject in a new area of study. I have also felt fortunate to have a great group of students this year who have responded well to my emphasis on self-care and how they are doing as humans–not just as math or science students. Getting to know my own students for the first time has been such an incredible experience for me; I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in the years to come.