## How I came to be a math teacher
I was an unusual child. When I was 9 my swim team
coach told me "Bruce, you're one of a kind." I asked, "What
kind am I one of?" She didn't tell me. I'm still working out
the answer.
Thanks to great teachers and outstanding academic programs, I discovered my
love for math at Robert Frost Intermediate School and W. T. Woodson High School
in Fairfax, VA. I enjoyed competing on the math team (as well as just about every other academic competition available), and we were very successful.
I did my undergraduate work at Duke University, where
I earned a BS in Mathematics in 1984. I then moved to Minneapolis
to enroll in graduate school at the University of Minnesota. I
earned my MS in Mathematics (Statistics minor) in 1987. In
grad school I learned two important facts about myself: first,
I love teaching; second, I much prefer the math curriculum taught
in high school and early college to the abstruse mathematics I
was learning in my graduate courses.
At Minnesota I was a graduate TA. For three years
I taught recitations, lecture sections, and summer school classes
in College Algebra, Finite Math, Calculus, Multivariable Calculus,
Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. In 1987 my graduate
studies were ending and I did not know what to do with myself,
so I started working as a private math tutor.
Tutoring was my primary source of income for seven
years (during this time I also took a career detour as a Theatre
Arts grad student studying stage direction).
My work as a tutor taught me how to teach much more effectively
than I ever had as a TA. I learned how students think as they wrestle
with class notes, homework assignments, and test questions. I also
learned the importance of listening.
Most of what I learned about teaching I picked up
through through repetition. As a tutor I had to teach and/or review
the same lessons dozens of times each academic quarter, hundreds
of times over the years. I discovered a variety of effective ways
to teach a broad range of topics. Some of the techniques were my
own creations. Many other ideas came from my students, their professors,
and their TAs.
From 1994 to 2006 I taught high school math at St.
Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas. I taught regular and
advanced classes across the curriculum, from Algebra I through
Multivariable Calculus, including AP Statistics and several college-level
independent studies. Like all of my colleagues at St. Stephen's
I had many other tasks outside the classroom. Over the years I
was a student advisor, quiz bowl coach, cosponsor of the
LGBT-straight alliance, dorm parent, math team coach, mock trial
coordinator, improv coach, and stage director.
In 2006 I moved to Portland, Oregon. I teach at Clackamas
Community College, where I teach pretty much the same courses as
I did at St. Stephen's. My students, though, are older
and are drawn from a more diverse background. This allows
me to develop
myself
further
as
an educator. Being
a math teacher is an endless
learning
experience
for me, and
I love it.
Bruce Simmons
Oregon City, OR
March 26, 2008 |