Saying Goodbye To My Math Mentor

Two years ago I had the privilege to begin working with whom I have considered my math mentor, or more playfully when we co-taught,  my work wife, Rachel Kemper. I’ve written before about co-teaching with her and how sad I was when she went to primary and our coteaching experience came to an end.

It is with mixed emotions that I must say goodbye to her at the end of the year. She’s  leaving our school to spend her days with an adorable little boy. She’s made the decision to stay at home next year with him. He’s a lucky little boy to have her as his mom. I’m happy for what this means for her family, but sad to see her go.

Rachel has taught me so much in the last two years we have worked together. You see, I’ve never really liked or cared for math. I wasn’t good at it in school. I was fine teaching primary math, intermediate math, however,  was different story.  My own math anxiety would kick in and I’d have to work really hard to be sure I fully understood what I was doing so as to not let my kids down. Converting measurements and fractions would cause a panic that people around me never saw, but I felt it and had to work through it.

When we planned together, she provided a safe place for me to say,”I get the procedure, but why does it work?”  No judgements, just unconditional support. Our styles complimented each other well. She gave me the confidence to teach a subject I was never comfortable doing.

While unable to teach together this year, she has still been there for me. Whether it was a question, a wacky idea I wanted to run past her, or sharing the successes of our students, she always had time for me. My favorite was when I told her about our fraction number line. She was so proud of me for doing it this year. I told her that when we did it last year I didn’t really get it, but doing it on my own this year it really made sense. Again, no judgement, just support. I was amazed to hear myself say that I actually enjoyed teaching fractions.

When she told me she was leaving, I of course wondered who would take her place. Whoever it would be would have big shoes to fill. Imagine my surprise when she asked me if I would consider it. Shock and disbelief. I mean, come on, I just recently decided math wasn’t that bad. But she did what Rachel does.  She makes you feel good about how you teach. That what you do, and how you do it matters. Her enthusiasm about teaching is contagious. She makes you a better teacher by believing in you even when you don’t always believe in yourself.  While I’m not ready to leave my own classroom, it means the world to me that she would even ask me to consider taking over where she is leaving off.

So Rachel, thank you for all that you have done for me and have taught me. I wish you well in this new chapter in your life. And, I wish that every teacher has the opportunity to teach with their own Rachel. You will be missed my friend.

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