Going Full Circle

Storyteller: Brianna (she/her/hers), 29, Arizona

I have always been "good at math" because I had phenomenal timing in terms of getting all the good teachers. I think lucky timing is the unfair algorithm that determines how much a student learns. Good teachers are the keystone in success.

In high school, I was a participant in a stem program through the University of Arizona. To qualify as a participant, students had to have taken physics and calculus by their senior year in high school. There were about 7 of us who participated in the program out of about 30 seniors. The program had us build our own computers which we got to keep and also gave us graphing calculators. Up until then, I had to rent a calculator from the school so this was the first TI-89 of my own. I used it a lot that next school year in statistics and then through out college.

Ten-ish year later, I started teaching at the same school I attended and graduated from. Last year was the first year I taught high school math and I can say that none of my students would be able to qualify for that program that I participated in if the requirements had remained the same. Upon further reflection of my teaching career (5th grade, middle school math, then high school math), it is very interesting how most problems high school students have in math go all the way back to the transition from elementary to middle school. I used to tutor twice a week when I taught middle school math and I know that those struggling students were able to catch up in that time period and that's why they are successful in high school math. I taught the same group of students as they progressed through the years and compared them to the students that were new to me and the differences were STRIKING.

Being the only high school math teacher, the workload was impossible (I taught algebra, geometry, algebra 2, and precalculus). Tutoring did not help students at this point. It was very difficult to step away from this job but I could not do it a second year alone. When I went to this high school, I had 3 different math teachers. I pride myself on being a great teacher, yet I still felt like I had been set up for failure. I do know having more math teachers would have helped my students and I advocated for them every chance I got. I do plan on getting back in the classroom, but I am scarred from my first year teaching high school math and am taking some well needed time away from it for now.

Brianna Nez 2

I have always been "good at math" because I had phenomenal timing in terms of getting all the good teachers.