New Member: Shawn from Seattle (area), WA, USA
My name is Shawn, I am a fourth grade teacher in the Tahoma School District in Maple Valley, WA. I am in my fourth year of teaching and my wife is in her second year of teaching (she teaches third grade in a neighboring district). Recently, a fellow teacher and I teamed up, allowing me to teach math for both of our classes, while he teaches reading. In addition to my standard teaching duties, I am also on my union executive board and bargaining team, and I am my grade-level math lead for my building.
Teaching is not my first profession. After high school, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was a machine gunner who experienced combat in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005. I was injued as a result of multiple IED explosions months after I turned 19, and was retired from active duty at the age of 20.
After retirement, I went to school for web design and database programming (PHP, MySQL, Java, C#, etc.) and enjoyed it for a time, but felt that I should be doing something more. I got my BA in pastoral ministry and biblical literature and was a youth pastor for several years, eventually transitioning into teaching after obtaining my MEd. As an interesting side note, my current principal was my fourth grade teacher!
As a student, I HATED math. I memorized my times tables and could recall my facts with lightning speed. Where I fell apart was fourth grade (I joke about this with my principal and blame him for it all–HA!). I was sick for a week when the standard algorithm for multi-digit multiplication was taught, and we never learned partial products. When I came back, everyone “knew” how to do something I didn’t. I learned lattice, and still had no idea how it worked, but I could get the correct answer. This was the start of my hatred of math.
In fifth grade, I had a teacher who publicly humiliated kids for getting an answer wrong. She would tell us that we were, “absolutely wrong!” and shut us down. I never raised my had that year. Middle school and high school were full of confusing steps with no meaning, but my grades would have you thinking I knew what I was doing. By the time I got to Algebra II, I dropped out of math altogether, figured I’d never go to college, and knew that I was enlisting in the Marines anyway (circa 2004).
In the Marines, I found out math could be interesting. We had a tool for our machine guns called a T&E (traversing and elevating mechanism). This tool allowed me to use a map and coordinates to employ my machine gun as an indirect fire weapon system (I could tilt my machine gun into the air at a specific angle and hit a target behind a hill I couldn’t see). It was a long road for me to get my math credits after the military and I spent many hours each week in the math center at college, but it all started to make sense (I still didn’t know how to multiply using the standard algorithm when I graduated college with my BA). I also found out that programming (something I started to learn on my own in middle school) was really math all along.
Fast-forward to my first year, teaching fifth grade, I realized I had to teach the standard algorithm for multi-digit multiplication with decimals and fractions greater than one. When I read the teacher guide in the curriculm and taught myself, a lightbulb went off. Really, it was more like a fireworks show and music was playing in my head. Here I am now, in my fourth year of teaching, absolutely in love with math. I do it for fun and I spend my free time reading books on the subject.
I joined the Making Math Moments Academy because I love math for math’s sake and I want to help ensure that no student stumbles through their school years hating math and beign afraid to ask for help.