Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.S. Mathematics, M.A. Teaching
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
University of Vermont
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
U-32 Middle & High School, Washington Central Unified Union School District, Montpelier, VT; Geometry, Algebra II, Alternative Special Education Program
What made you decide to become a teacher?
My entry into teaching kicked off in rapid fashion due to serious inspiration provided by the coding-based learning and generative lab tasks in my freshman Calculus I and II courses at the University of Vermont (UVM). Facilitated by seasoned and passionate instructor, Helen Read, I found great interest and joy in the creative approach to iteration and visualization of functions with technical computing software. Completely unexpected and unlike how I had previously learned math, these embedded coding tutorials offered me an exploratory and systemic pathway through Calculus concepts. At the end of my first undergraduate year, I felt strongly that I wanted to recreate this empowering quantitative experience for others. My decision to pursue working with young people more formally, however, began in a much different setting as a writing tutor at UVM. Despite the stark contrast in theory and learning to support excellence in composition, my intrigue with pedagogy reached a point of no return; I knew I wanted to be a high school math teacher!
Describe your current teaching assignment.
U-32 Middle & High School (U-32) is a special place for many in central Vermont and has been for me since 2016. Not far from the state capital of Montpelier, U-32 serves five rural communities. Our students are active in their local community; athletics and student academic clubs and interest groups are a significant component of extracurricular student life. What I find most exciting about U-32 is the many ways that students have agency in their learning and the wealth of pathways they can take to graduation proficiency. Project-based learning is widely implemented by the faculty, many of whom are state recognized in their content areas or national board certified. Moreover, relationships hold prominence and provenance in what we do each day. All staff and students go by first names only, and our robust advisory system ensures that students have both the adult and peer support they need to meet their social, academic, and personal goals. I have close relationships with my colleagues and students and am proud of the school I work in.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
I was incredibly fortunate to complete my student teaching at U-32 under the guidance of a rock star mentor teacher. Kate McCann, the 2017 Vermont State Teacher of the Year and 2015 awardee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, “gave me the keys” to her classroom early on and saw my potential to make a difference in the lives of young people. Kate found a way not only to model the best practices in mathematics teaching and to support the social development of young people, she also created a dynamic environment where the best was always yet to come. There was always a newer iteration of a lesson or activity that could better stimulate student engagement, a novel approach to formative assessment to provide meaningful feedback, or a way to substitute traditional exercises in favor of more high leverage and accessible tasks. Meanwhile, the educational theory and networking I gained in the concurrent graduate study at UVM during Noyce amplified my learning and development as a nascent educator in Vermont. Both the content and stakeholders in my Noyce experience set me on a pathway to success.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
Noyce brought to my attention the importance of access in education and motivated my subsequent study of the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) framework. From the tasks I implemented, to the needs of my students from various backgrounds, to trauma-informed teaching, I found preparation in many forms as I sought to be a more culturally responsive educator. I remember fondly the rich discussions in seminars with UVM MAT faculty Colby Kervick and Barri Tinkler, where the power of scaffolding learning came to light. I was forced to confront my own subjectivities and how they manifest in what I perceive to be culturally normative. Noyce forced me to look within myself and within my pedagogical choices to make sure the learner is at the forefront.
The Noyce Program afforded me the opportunity to be culturally responsive in my teaching practice due to many of the aforementioned reasons. The UDL Framework and practices I gleaned in preservice learning were directly applicable in my classrooms. The learner is the priority; I want to welcome their background, leverage their interests and incorporate the community context as much as possible. Consequently, my geometry students find themselves applying their knowledge of rigid motions to study disturbances in a substrate in the network of recreational trails on our school campus. My students learn to create media and learning experiences for each other in our project-based learning activities. Proactive circles anchor my restorative practice and allow me to develop strong relationships with each student and understand their passions and purpose.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
Exploration before explanation took hold in my philosophy of teaching early on and has remained an enduring guiding light to this day. I am highly motivated to help my students to not only become adept problem solvers but problem posers. In my Algebra classes, I offer entry into our learning with data, multimedia, or a pattern that doesn’t quite fit the mold of our prior quantitative thinking. In stirring up cognitive dissonance and presenting novel context, I try to leave my students with a trail of intellectual breadcrumbs to arrive authentically at the next type of equation or function that will prove useful to model what we are seeing. In my Geometry classes, we leverage our study of geometric transformations by exploring the science of animal tracking. In my special education class, whenever possible, I offer game-based learning to build intrigue and provide a context into which we can sink our teeth. The Noyce Program equipped me with a great deal of knowledge about what makes a task worthwhile, how to be attentive to students’ social and emotional well-being, and how to make learning relevant.
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?
As a result of the Noyce program, I came to understand early in my teaching career the wealth of opportunities available to mathematics students and education in the State of Vermont. Consequently, I have become involved with a few professional organizations in the state, starting as the Newsletter Editor and later the Treasurer for the Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM). Still in my role as Treasurer, I also direct the Statewide Mathematics Fair for K-12 students and have done so since 2019. In the preservice component of my Noyce experience, I led a PD for teachers on formative assessment. This opened the door to later opportunities to speak at both the VCTM and ATMNE (Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England) Conferences in 2017, 2018 and 2019. My project-based learning curriculum continues to evolve as I seek to incorporate student interests (such as the Meme Cinematic Universe) and my own (competitive powerlifting) into our learning tasks. More recently, during the COVID pandemic, I have taken a serious interest in the power of data to inform my instruction and lead to better student learning outcomes. Noyce was instrumental in giving me an experience that supports risk-taking and appreciation of both my own professional commitment and learning.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
In 2018 I was awarded the “Rookie of the Year” by the Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics.