I think there are really 2 key things in my childhood school experience that led me into the teaching profession. It may sound hokey and unbelievable, but I knew I wanted to be a math teacher when I was in the 8th grade. I always enjoyed math as a kid, but growing up in a K-12 Christian school didn’t provide me many areas of challenge. When I was in 7th grade, my parents convinced the principle to let me skip 7th grade math and move into pre-algebra. Seeing that I made the transition ok, the following year 3 other 8th graders were allowed to skip pre-algebra and join me in Algebra 1. The high school math teacher was Mr. Ouellette, a man that I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to. He recognized that I still wasn’t being challenged in Algebra 1 and convinced the administration to let me speed through the curriculum at my own pace under his guidance. I completed Algebra 1 in the first semester and caught up to and joined the regular Algebra 2 class midway through the second semester.
Seeing Mr. Ouellette’s dedication to and sacrifice for his students inspired me and gave me the desire to be a teacher. He was always helping students outside of class time. It seemed like he never took a lunch break for himself and never left school at the end of the day like most of the rest of the teachers. I enjoyed helping my classmates with their work, and I knew I wanted to be like Mr. Ouellette and help others by teaching math. He wasn’t the only good teacher I had, but he is the one who first instilled in me a love of math.
The second contributing factor came from my high school experience. My family left the school I grew up in after the 8th grade, and we transferred to a different, smaller K-12 Christian school when I entered the 9th grade. This school had teachers who cared about me and wanted me to learn and grow, but they did not have the resources or the teachers to really continue to challenge me. The highest math course they offered was an “Advanced Math” class I took in 11th grade which was a semester of trigonometry and a semester of analytic geometry. It was also a video course which meant we had a “supervisory” teacher responsible for us, but he wasn’t in the room with us because he was teaching another class during that period. We went to his room when we were supposed to take quizzes and tests, but were on our own for the videos. He was a great guy, but the math was mostly over his head, and he wasn’t really able to help us very much. The 5 of us who took the course (4 seniors and myself, a junior) essentially taught ourselves the material.
That experience really solidified my desire to be a teacher and gave me a burden for teaching in a Christian school where quality math instruction is many times lacking. I don’t mean to denigrate the school I graduated from. They did the best with what they had, and I did receive a good education and feel that I was mostly prepared for college. Some of the teachers there had a great impact on my life, particularly my basketball coach. I wanted to be just like him. He is a big reason why I decided to teach and coach as well. I am grateful for the experiences I had because they helped form who I am today.
In my next post, I will briefly recount my teaching experience thus far and explain further what has led me to joining the online community of math teachers in a more active way.
First day of classes tomorrow!! I am so excited for this new year.