Math teachers…rebellious? Those words don’t often go together in our minds, but Amanda Shuman remembers her math teachers as rebels who kept the class engaged with their lively teaching style. Since she took to math naturally and found herself two or three grade levels ahead of her classmates, she decided to pursue math as a career. After receiving a master’s degree in mathematics at WMU, she is living in Washington D.C. as a Math for America DC (MƒA DC) fellow. She will be following a five-year program in which college graduates and working professionals commit to teaching math in public secondary schools. All fellows are mathematically talented individuals who are new to teaching.
During the first year of the fellowship, MƒA DC fellows receive a full scholarship to the American University in Washington D.C. Tuition and fees for the degree, a Master’s in Teaching in Secondary Education: Mathematics, are completely covered. Fellows receive a living stipend for the training year. Fellows will have pre-service professional development and mentoring as well as extensive student teaching experience during the training year. Development and training continue through the training year.
During years two through five, MƒA DC fellows will teach in a Washington D.C. public or public charter school at the secondary level. Fellows will receive a stipend in addition to a regular full-time teacher’s salary in the city. Besides the stipend and salary, mentoring, coaching and support services are available for fellows. They are expected to participate in ongoing, interactive, professional development activities as well.
Amanda hails from Montrose, Michigan and completed her undergraduate work at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She always found herself drawn to mathematics and she gathered experience in teaching math by tutoring at her high school during her junior and senior years. She was a teaching assistant for the Department of Mathematics at WMU and part of her duties there included tutoring in the math lab. As a TA, she taught math to non-math majors. Finite and Pre-Calculus were also within the scope of her teaching experience. One thing she wants to do in her career is encourage young women and girls to a love of math. She found the lack of women in math classes and in university settings disheartening, and she wants to increase visibility for women in mathematics.
Studying at WMU, a large, diverse university, was very different from her undergraduate work at Aquinas. Here at Western in a male dominated profession, she felt somewhat isolated. She knew that if she wanted to advance her position in life she would have to do it on her own, and she did so by working out her problems in “self-study.” Diving into something she enjoyed, mathematics, provided an antidote to the inevitable difficult issues that came up during her graduate study at WMU. She was unable to participate much in campus life, as she lived in Grand Rapids and commuted to school in Kalamazoo. She notes that public transportation in Washington, D.C. is more comprehensive than anything available in this area of Michigan, though the cost of living in the city is much higher.
Amanda counts several professors and graduate assistants as major influences on her. She notes that Dr. Steven Culver, then chair of the math department, and Dan Sievewright and Shelley Speiss, both now holding the Ph.D., were greatly encouraging. She also singled out for praise two “amazing teachers who kept me going.” The first was Dr. Jay Wood. “He is an extraordinary professor who was willing to work with me to catch up with the other students and was always patient with me. He answered even the most mundane questions and constantly encouraged me to continue working hard.” The second teacher who bolstered Amanda’s confidence was Dr. Melinda Koelling, with whom she worked on complex analysis. Amanda had not had much success in complex analysis in her previous classes, but Dr. Keolling gave her the guidance to understand concepts she had not previously grasped. Dr. Koelling’s presence at math club and other departmental events was motivating, as well.
Amanda earned no less than 18 scholarships and just as many non-cash awards during her undergraduate work at Aquinas, and at Western was involved as a member of the Teaching Assistants Union and of Pi Mu Epsilon, an honorary national mathematics society promoting scholarly activity in mathematics. Now, as a Math for America Fellow, she will be using her talents to further mathematics education in K-12 settings. The Graduate College at Western Michigan University is proud to call her one of our own, and wishes her great success in her future endeavors.