When did you start at Rashi?
What is your background?
I graduated from the University of Georgia where I studied math and Spanish. I went on to serve as a corps member for Teach for America in Brooklyn, teaching middle school math at a charter school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. After teaching math for several more years at an independent school on the upper west side of Manhattan, I pursued a degree in school leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I spent a year taking classes and serving as an intern administrator at several local independent schools.
What is your role at Rashi?
I currently serve as our Mathematics Department Chair, so my role involves any and all things math! I teach several classes in the Middle School, collaborate with teachers to develop materials and deliver high quality instruction, and generally ensure a strong pedagogical approach to our math curriculum. I also work closely with our Grade 5 team to ensure a smooth transition for students as they graduate from lower to Middle School.
Who is a teacher that inspired you?
My AP biology teacher. And of course, I’m inspired by our amazing team of Middle School math teachers here at Rashi – Mo, Patrick, and Eben!
What do you find rewarding about your job?
What I find most rewarding about this job is that on any day, no matter how busy or stressful things get, there is always at least one moment a Middle School student makes me laugh. Not to mention, I get to do fun math problems all day, what’s better than that!?
How do you help students transition to Middle School?
We know that transitioning to Middle School is a big step for our students that requires adjustments, such as understanding different teachers’ expectations, transitioning between classes throughout the day, and a more rigorous workload. Our advisory program, led by Joni Fishman, is a crucial component of ensuring students are supported as they transition to Middle School.
From a math standpoint, I work closely with the Grade 5 team throughout the year, so by the time students are ready to transition to Middle School, I am quite familiar with their learning styles in math. Prior to graduating Grade 5, I also meet with each student individually to discuss their goals for Middle School and to get an even better sense of how our students think and talk about math. We put a tremendous amount of care into placing students into math classes best suited to their overall development as math students, which ultimately sets them up for a successful transition to Middle School math.
How do you connect with students who may not feel good at math?
We embody a growth mindset, meaning we try to emphasize with students that mathematical ability is not something fixed or innate, but rather something that can be learned. To get students brought-into this idea, it’s important to celebrate small successes and recognize positive growth. This comes through consistent teacher feedback and setting small, attainable goals.
We also try to engage students through a variety of modes of instruction, and we support students in accessing the material in a manner best suited to their individual learning style.
And of course, the more we can connect math to real-life applications and students’ interests, the more positive of a light students see math in.
What’s a special unit you teach?
This year, I was particularly proud of our series of social justice units planned by our math department in conjunction with Sherman Goldblum, social justice assistant. In Grade 6, students examined food insecurity in Boston using their knowledge of ratios and rates. Grade 7 researched statistics around the impact of COVID-19 and its disproportionate effect on certain populations. Grade 8 constructed data displays to illuminate the alarming increase of instances of Anti-Asian hate in the United States.
I was so impressed with the way our students approached these activities with such a thoughtful and mature outlook.
Describe your approach to teaching
I think that my passion for the subject and my enthusiasm for math comes through in my teaching, and I think it’s important to model for students a genuine love for the subject. In class, I provide a variety of experiences for students to engage with new material, I do tend to value consistency and certain routines, particularly with students who benefit from a more structured environment. I use technology and various learning platforms (EdPuzzle, Desmos, Google Slides) while I still believe there is an irreplaceable advantage to doing the majority of work in math with pencil and paper.
I value consistent, regular feedback in formal written form and in the moment while circulating in class. I believe in an appropriate balance between group collaboration and struggling through something independently, and that both modes are important for overall student development.
Lastly, I differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students in my class, so that each students can maximize his/her potential. For students who would benefit from an extra push, I provide rigorous extensions and challenge opportunities. And for students who need additional support in math, I scaffold instruction and provide them individualized action steps on how to access the material successfully.
I enjoy any opportunity we have for Rabbi Micah to lead us in songs. “Oseh Shalom” and “Shalom Rav” are two of my favorites. I also experienced the Grade 8 graduation this year for the first time, and it was a very touching ceremony and a perfect culmination to our 8th graders’ fantastic Rashi careers.