Where are you from?
Because my dad was in the military, I have lived in Germany (twice), Louisiana, California, and South Carolina. When I became an adult, I fell in love with the metro Atlanta area and have been living here for 40 years.
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/cultivate your interest in mathematics.
I have loved math for as long as I can remember. Learning base 2 in elementary school in Germany helped me better understand the place value of our base 10 system. I recall being amazed as a 6th grader that we all got the same number when we divided the circumference of our different-sized lids by the diameter. I personally learned the power of inquiry-based learning because of that 6th grade experience.
My teachers made me feel smart in class. Even though I was often taught the traditional algorithms in class, I would often make up reasons that made sense to me that helped me understand why I should implement a certain procedure. Math had to make sense to me! When it didn’t make sense, I would create a story or explanation that would help me remember the concepts in ways that made sense to me. It was my quest to make sense of numbers, patterns, and relationships that kept math interesting for me.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) as a K-12 educator?
I am most proud of the students that I was able to convince that they were “math people” in spite of their prior negative experiences with mathematics. It has truly been a delight for them to come back and tell me about their successes because math was no longer an obstacle for them. I am also extremely proud of the book that I co-authored, Choosing to See: A Framework for Equity in the Math Classroom. I grew up thinking that I was a terrible writer. This book is a testament to me successfully overcoming all the barriers in my mind about what I was capable of and what I could accomplish. This process helped me identify with my students who thought they couldn’t do math. I used my own transformation as evidence that my students could learn to believe in themselves through encouragement, support, and experiences that helped them recognize their mathematical brilliance.
Describe what you do in the classroom to inspire your students.
I have done this in several ways. The first way that I inspire students is to allow them to work on challenging tasks that allow them to think deeply and be creative. True learning really is its own reward. The satisfaction that students get when their hard work and ideas are valued, developed, and recognized is inspiring for both of us.
The second way that I inspire students is to make sure that they see people who look like them represented positively in my math classroom. One way that I did this was with a Wall of Fame. It was a collection of pictures of Black mathematicians who had made contributions to the field of mathematics. It included contributions from ancient civilizations to people who were graduates of their high school. I asked my students to choose a person from the Wall of Fame and showcase their accomplishments in mathematics. I used this Wall of Fame and other activities to show them that mathematical brilliance comes in all races and ethnicities.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
I am most proud of my family. I have been married for 31 years and have successfully raised 3 daughters and 1 son to adulthood. We are empty-nesters and living our best lives! Someone asked me what my favorite vacation spot was. My response was, “Any place where family is because we know how to ‘turn up’ anywhere we go.” I never knew being the parent of adult children would be so much fun!
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
Choose your battles wisely. Not everything is worth fighting over. Some battles only serve as distractions from the real work. Fighting to make sure our children have access to the education that will enable them to fulfill their life’s calling is one that I’m willing to fight for as long as I’m still breathing.