Category Archives: Monday Motivation

10/8/18: Monday Motivation – Elissa Miller

Every Monday, I will highlight someone who has motivated me to become a better educator and this week goes to Elissa Miller!

I listened to Elissa’s Global Math Project talk and I loved her idea of “Two Nice Things.” If you are unfamiliar with it, the rule is, whenever you say something negative to another person, you have to immediately follow it up with saying two nice things about that person.

What struck me was when she said that this rule pertains to yourself as well. If you say something bad about yourself, you have to say two nice things about yourself too and I love that. I have problems with self worth and doing this for the past week outside of the classroom made me happier with who I am.

I told all of my students this idea, so Elissa, you’re popular to all 180 of my students, and I hope that they will bring your idea to their classrooms.

Above all else, it is important for students to see that they are valuable, and Elissa is doing a great job providing an environment for her students to see that for themselves. I intend to focus more on this idea this semester. Thank you for being my motivation Elissa!

8/20/18: Monday Motivation – Doug Robertson

Every Monday I’m going to highlight an educator that motivates me and this week’s Monday Motivation goes to Doug Robertson!

How we met:

We were going to Oregon for our honeymoon, and I saw that Doug lives in Oregon so I decided to be brave and ask him if we could meet up, so I can at least give him a handshake. I was basically a stranger to him, but he agreed to meet up and we had dinner with him, his wife, and his kids. It was a wonderful time and his family is amazing.

How he motivates me:

Doug motivates me in several ways…

  1. He’s willing to meet educators he doesn’t know.
  2. His book “He’s the Weird Teacher” is amazing and you should get it. He writes in a way that his personality shines through.
  3. Towards the end of that book, he mentioned that he hopes to inspire educators around the world and 5 years later, here he is doing it, and I hope to have that type of impact one day.
  4. He’s not afraid to call out people, mostly thought leaders.
  5. He challenges the image of what a teacher looks like (himself, and bringing in guest speakers like tattoo artists into his classroom).

I think I could list a lot more reasons but I think a lot of them can be found and understood if you read his book “He’s the Weird Teacher.”  Go do it.

Thanks for motivating me Doug!

8/13/18: Monday Motivation – Chrissy Newell

Every Monday, I am going to highlight one educator that motivates me to become a better educator and this week’s Monday Motivation goes to Chrissy Newell!

How We Met

Not only is she my twin (both born on August 10), she was the first breakout presenter (along with Jamie Garner) that I’ve seen, which was at CMC Central 2017. We saw each other only two more times after that: once at CMC South 2017 briefly at the affiliate luncheon, though we didn’t talk much because she was on the opposite side of the table and her talk was directly afterward, and once again a couple weeks ago in Turlock just for a hang out session.


I only realized after the fact that our hang out in Turlock was the first time we actually REALLY talked in person, but what I love about Chrissy was that the conversations felt effortless, as if we’ve hung out for a while. Lots of laughs were made, and she was nice enough to pay for my meal.

How She Motivates Me

Chrissy motivates me to do more presentations. She never told me to do more presentations but she does lead by example by speaking at so many conferences. She also motivates me to just be approachable. Act like you’ve been hanging out with the other person for a while. Content wise, she is SUPER knowledgeable. She makes me motivated to do numberless graphs, co-crafting questions with students, and realizing that we need to not just do Number Talks, but also gather data on Number Talks as well to drive instruction.

Thanks for motivating me to become a better educator, Chrissy!

7/30/18: Monday Motivation – Fawn Nguyen

Every Monday, I will highlight one person who has motivated me to become a better educator and this week’s Monday Motivation goes out to the lovely Fawn Nguyen. I first saw Fawn in CMC South in 2017, where one of the first things she did was post a picture of Jo Boaler and her talk time (it was the same time as Fawn’s second talk) and said “I’m going to repeat this session at 1:15. *looks at the picture* Shit.” From that sentence on, I knew I was going to like her. I was engaged the entire talk and I wanted to go up and talk to her afterwards, but she already had a mob of people going, so I decided not to.

I’m looking back at my CMC South notes and here are some of the quotes I took down:

  • I’m going to have a few drinks so the 1:15 session will be more fun anyway.
  • If they could think critically, it’ll be ideal. But on most days, I’ll take any kind of thinking.
  • Reflection + Practice = Less Suck
  • How do we do this? I already have all the answers, remember?
  • Fawn: I went to the rose bowl to see my Oregon ducks lose to UCLA
    •  *someone from the audience*: Woo!
    • Fawn: Shut up.

I love her website Math is the study of patterns, and I use this every semester to have students find structures in visual growth. I also loved her quote of “We are kidding ourselves when we give kids problems that only take a period.” When we think of mathematicians, problems that are worthwhile are going to take more than 50 minutes. People working on their master’s or PhD have to spend 1-5+ years on one problem, and even at the college level, there are students that would complain if it takes more than 5 minutes to solve a problem. She was also the first speaker that I witnessed talk about how hard teaching is, saying “Teaching is so hard, we don’t need people critical of us. You can have 99 parents tell you great job, but 1 parent…” This is something that I struggle with. I can have all the positive comments in the world, but would focus on that one negative comment for a very long time. I’m glad someone spoke about it, and it made me realize that someone as great as Fawn even gets bad comments. It’s unrealistic to please everyone.

It was just absolutely refreshing seeing Fawn. She is one of the only Asian math educators I know that is a prominent speaker (with one more being Francis Su). I know that some people will retort saying “I don’t see color” or “I only care about the message, not the speaker’s background” but I strongly believe it matters. When we claim that everyone is a mathematician, it is important to show that people of all backgrounds can do math and that their ideas are valued as a speaker. Apart from her background, she was the only one that regularly cussed, and I thought “Wow, she’s cool. Breaking norms of teachers not cussing.”

When I saw her blog post, it resonated with me and made me love her even more, because my family escaped from Vietnam too. My family and hers both came from Saigon, both left on a boat in the late 70s, and basically came to the United States with nothing. The fact that they survived escaping is a miracle. 

Fawn, I hope you never lose sight of how far you’ve come. From escaping Vietnam as a child, to learning English, and now being known around worldwide, you are extremely special and you deserve the world. You mean a lot to me and you motivate me to be kinder, to open myself up even more, and to always show love.

You are my hero. Thank you for being you.