Math is a subject that gets progressively more challenging as you continue to advance your knowledge of the subject. For some, the way mathematics work comes easy, but for others it’s a struggle to reach for the moment where all the information finally clicks and the problem is solved. That is the moment that our April Teacher of the Month strives for.
Paula Grande teaches math classes to seventh and eighth grade students at Key Peninsula Middle School and has been teaching for more than 20 years. Being a math teacher takes patience, and Paula says that patience pays off when her students get that ‘Oh!’ or ‘A-ha!’ moment. “Math class isn’t about making math easy because it isn’t always. Math class is about making math make sense because it does,” says Paula.
Once students can make sense of the problem it can really open up a new way of thinking and possibly a new direction in what they want to pursue in life. Technology and science jobs are in high demand, and understanding mathematics is the root of these high-paying and rewarding careers. While not everyone will grow up to build the next great app, social-media platform or make machines run more efficiently, having the confidence to fail and try again and again without quitting is something math can teach us.
Middle school can be a difficult transition for young people and a time when confidence in one’s self can diminish because of mounting academic and social pressures. Paula reinforces that confidence in her students in hopes of showing each one the amazing things they can achieve, even through difficult struggles.
“Regardless of whether my students go on to major in math or pursue another avenue, my goal for all my students is to realize success can be accomplished through hard work, critical thinking and problem solving. And everyone can do math,” Paula affirms.
She recalls one student in particular, whom she taught in both seventh and eighth grade. This student came into Paula’s class not liking math and lacking the confidence that she could do well mastering the subject. Not only did this student struggle with math, but Paula learned during a parent-teacher conference that her student’s parents had their own struggles with math as well.
“This student, like many struggling math students, lacked confidence. I worked hard to help her see she could do math, worked on her confidence and negative self talk while also working on her skills. [By the time] she left middle school, she told me she knew she could be successful in math—and even liked it!” recalls Paula. “A few years later, her mom told me that she was attending college and was going to study math because I had made her realize that math made sense and she could do it! She is now a mechanical engineer.”
A teacher can change the world for her students, opening doors to new and incredible opportunities. And that is what Paula has done, and continues to do, each and every day she steps into the classroom.