I think my students don’t realize that I am, in fact, happy almost all the time. My resting face, apparently, looks like a frown, so the misconception of my students is that I am always unhappy. Some of them even believe me when I tell them that I was born without the facial muscles necessary to smile. The ironic fact is that I love my job and the best part of it is the daily interaction with my students.
What’s your teaching passion? What motivates you? What do you do to stay current?
I’m not sure that I have a “teaching passion” beyond just the sheer love of teaching in general. I love conveying information and teaching skills to students that will enrich their lives, whether in a practical, professional, or purely academic way. Also, as all teachers know – especially math teachers – there is nothing more motivating or satisfying than hearing from the back of the room, “Ohhh…now I get it.” Just one of those comments is enough to keep me going for weeks.
What was your favorite book you read in school?
I did so much reading outside of school when I was a kid that I don’t really remember which books I read for school and which I read on my own. My love of reading also makes it impossible to choose one favorite. In college, my favorite books were by William Faulkner and Jack Kerouac. In high school, my favorites were probably Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. In middle school, my tastes leaned toward Stephen King and Agatha Christie, which I’m sure were not part of the curriculum.
Who most influenced your decision to teach?
I decided to teach when I realized (after far too many years) that my first career was not as rewarding on a personal level as I had hoped it would be. The individual that most influenced my decision to become a teacher probably has no idea she did so, but it was my oldest daughter, Olivia. I had the opportunity to home school her for about a year in sixth and seventh grade. I did so reluctantly but quickly discovered that I enjoyed the process immensely. Just as importantly, I realized that I was good at it and could make a success of it full-time. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that she was a pretty good student, so it was an easy gig.)
When you're listening to music, who's playing?
Besides my family (which I’m obligated to say), music is the great love of my life. When I’m not working, therefore, I’m probably listening to music. My tastes are fairly diverse; I like almost everything except country western and hip hop. Mostly, though, I listen to modern indie rock, with a particular affection for Irish and Scottish bands. If you peeked inside my iPod, you would see a lot of the National, Wilco, Radiohead, the Clash, the Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit, Beach House, U2, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan, along with a few hundred other artists.
If you were not teaching, what would you be doing instead?
If I wasn’t teaching, that probably means I did not have the courage to leave the legal profession, so I would still be litigating and spending my days in endless argument and conflict. However, if I were to do something that made me as happy as teaching middle school does, I would love to be the general manager of a baseball team (preferably the San Diego Padres, as they could really use my help.) Given that I’m quite accomplished at fantasy baseball, I am certain that I would have no trouble running a real major league club.
Do you have a particular North Cross memory that stands out? What's your favorite North Cross tradition?
My favorite North Cross memory (so far) is taking our inaugural MathCounts team to compete at Virginia Tech last year.
While we did not win, we represented North Cross very well against some tremendously experienced teams. Most importantly, though, we had fun preparing and competing. I had a great group of kids that dedicated themselves to the endeavor despite having to juggle their already heavy academic and athletic commitments.
My favorite North Cross tradition would have to be community service day. This is a terrific opportunity for the students to experience how important and rewarding it is to help those in our community that are less fortunate than we are, not to mention how satisfying a day of hard work can be. Every year I am impressed at the level of effort and earnestness that each of our students puts into community service day.
When your students move to the next grade, what is the most important lesson you want them to have learned?
I teach sixth, seventh and now eighth grade, so this answer would vary depending on the grade; in fact, it would really be different for each student. If forced to boil these various lessons down to one, though, it would be aimed at those students who arrive in my classroom thinking that they do not like and/or cannot succeed at math. My aim is for those students to leave my class with an appreciation that math is not a dry and arcane subject, but rather a dynamic way of understanding how the world really functions. My hope is that these students leave my class knowing that, in fact, they can succeed at math. I consider it a failure on my part if they do not.