My four biggest influences in education are women: Diana Herrington, Alice Keeler, Jo Boaler, and Jenna Tague. They have shaped me into the educator that I am today and I cannot be grateful enough for everything that they have shared. This blog post will share what these female educators mean to me and the need to empower women in mathematics.
Diana Herrington and I worked together for two years developing curricula for Liberal Studies majors at Fresno State. She showed me that math is everywhere and that math is not DRY. She loved using technology in the classroom which was eye-opening at the time. Diana was one of the most innovative teachers I knew. Constantly using manipulatives, technology, items from Trash for Teachers, her selflessness knew no bounds. Without her, I would not have felt as comfortable teaching differently. She really solidified the idea that it’s important to go deep into a solution. Only do 3-5 problems.
Diana knew how to make people feel good. I remember I asked her how I did one day, and she said “You did better than me!” and that just took me aback. I thought to myself, “oh my gosh, THE Diana Herrington said that.” What constantly amazed me was that she took my suggestions as well. We were a TEAM. Even with her years of teaching experience, she was still open to suggestions, which I found inspiring.
Diana opened my eyes to new methods left and right; she was so great at that. I still use a lot of lessons that we’ve planned together and I will share those in a later blog. I think about her every time I teach Math 10A and Math 10B and I am so grateful I was partnered up with her.
I met Alice Keeler in CI 101 Spring 2013. I was one of those students who didn’t think technology was necessary in the classroom (HA!). I was even writing my notes in a notebook even though it was in a computer lab. Alice opened a new world to me, a world where we need to use technology when it enhances the lesson but way more important than that, we use technology to enhance the relationships we have with our students. She is one of the teachers that truly cared about what you’re going to do with this information and she was so selfless about it. She shared everything she could. Not only that, I love that she does not settle. Teachers could so easily just repeat the same lessons and lessons over and over semester after semester but from what I’ve seen, she always adjusts to make her course even better, which is just awesome.
Alice is one of the few instructors that I have kept in touch with, and I am still learning from her. Just looking at all her blog posts on her website alicekeeler.com makes me want to be a better teacher. It made me realize that the best teachers share. Her ability to create is just amazing as well. Can’t find a way to make things easier? She creates programs to make it work. How cool is that?
Her teachings have been seen in my classroom quite often. I have told all of my students something she said to our class 4 years ago: You learn 1,000 times more from your mistakes than successes, and that has constantly been a theme in my classroom. Her mantra of relationships and feedback being the two most important things a teacher can give is constantly on my mind.
I can go on and on about how Alice changed my view of what a teacher should be but there are two more women that majorly inspired me.
Diana gave me Jo Boaler’s book Mathematical Mindsets a couple years ago and I was just in awe. That book changed me. Personally, I LOVED speed, but I realized that math is not a competition. I used to teach cute little math tricks, but then realized that it’s all procedural; the students aren’t really understanding where it comes from. Math is not about getting answers quickly, math is about finding relationships. This book showed me that understanding that mistakes are important to learning. Because of this, Diana and I let students revise EVERYTHING. Students appreciated it so much and I think that because we teach future teachers, this idea is SO important. Because of Jo, I realized how important reflections are. Reflecting will make us not just better students or teachers, but better people.
Lastly is Jenna Tague. She is a Professor at Fresno State and we collaborate often. What I love about her is that she is so knowledgeable when it comes to research. She showed me that it is important to look at research to verify teaching practices. She is one of the most patient people I know and one that I look up to when it comes to equity in the classroom. She made it mandatory for students to come to office hours in the first couple weeks to show that she is accessible and approachable. I took note of this myself this semester and I can tell you that my relationships with students this semester is much stronger because of it. Students are more willing to approach me when they need help and I honestly think it’s because of the relationships built in the mandatory office hours.
My teaching style is strongly influenced by these four women. This is why it is extremely important to empower women in mathematics. I don’t know the answer of exactly how to do that, but it starts with an equitable classroom and a growth mindset. Show every student that they are capable of achieving math at a higher level. Show students that math is not just about memorization, but rather, creativity. Show that math is applicable to their lives and help them. Show them women mathematicians. All we see are male mathematicians. Show them how Sonia Kovalevsky broke barriers by being the first woman to earn a PhD in Math. Show them that women can do it too.