I grew up in the West End of Toronto, Canada and my earliest memories of school all surround mathematics. I can not remember a single picture I painted or story that I wrote in elementary school, but I do remember getting in trouble for doing my friends’ math homework.
During high school, my rowing coach, mentor and good friend had just completed his master’s degree and had begun teaching. His standards were extremely high and he pushed all of his students to reach their full potential. He is definitely the main inspiration in my own teaching career.
After high school, I was accepted into the Engineering School at Princeton University. During my 4 years there, I volunteered at several schools and interviewed for teaching positions. However, I decided to use my Computer Science degree to take on the nascent challenge of computerized trading on Wall Street. It was an extremely exciting time, with PhDs from all disciplines working with the best mathematicians and computer scientists to build trading programs and try to “beat the market”.
I was able to live in New York City for almost 5 years and London for over 2 years. But I looked at my friends that had been in the business for many more years than me and I decided that it was time for a change. My wife and I moved to Rochester, MN and I started my web design and consulting business. After 12 years of building a company on the cutting edge of web design and streaming video, I was once again ready to look for another challenge.
I started by teaching one Algebra class and two Technology classes at the Rochester Montessori School. Inspired by this experience and my love of coaching, I began looking at programs to get my teaching license. The Winona State Teacher Preparation Collaborative was designed specifically for people in my position: adults who have had a first (or second) career, but are drawn by their love of teaching to go into the classroom.
The first spring and summer were full of rigorous pedagogy courses. All of the cohorts were excited to begin in the fall and I was placed with Michelle Bacon, a veteran Algebra teacher at Willow Creek Middle School. She was able to strike the perfect balance between pushing me beyond my perceived limits and being supportive and reflective when things don’t go as planned. I feel lucky to have had her as my first mentor in the field.
Over the course of my first years of teaching, I have tried to develop a focus on differentiation. I firmly believe that despite our natural inclinations, no one is “bad at math”. When 34 students come to class with distinct backgrounds, needs, and abilities, it is a great challenge to try to meet as many of them as possible and to set appropriate goals for each student. I try to present the idea that I will accept nothing less than my students’ best efforts, and that my job is to help them find out what that means on a daily, weekly and yearly basis.
Although math will always be my first love, I decided that I can make the most difference in the field of computer science. There is no licensure (yet), there are no official standards (yet) and all CS courses are electives. In addition, class rosters tend to be 90% (or more) white male students. There is so much work to be done to get all students in all schools excited about computer science and I am very excited to begin.
I would love to hear your suggestions…