The Math Teacher That Changed My Life

The Math Teacher That Changed My Life

How one 7th grade pre-calculus instructor taught me about myself and the real meaning of learning.

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Middle school is undoubtedly one of the most awkward years of schooling for most; for me, the transition proved to be one of the most challenging and rewarding span of years I've had in education thus far.

Here's a little background: for the majority of elementary school (K-3rd grade), I went to a local public school and for the remaining years (4th-5th grade), I called a small private Christian school my home. Come the start of 6th grade, I was back in the public school system, fearing the changes ahead of me and hesitating to make new friends in pre-existing social circles. I moved from public to private to public school again because of bullying. I was a very easy target for kids to taunt because of my short height, love of school, and strange, tomboyish clothing. In fact, 6th grade wasn't much better than what I had experienced before.

Come 7th grade, I decided to try a different school blocking system that my middle school offered. This program, called Team 21, placed an emphasis on hands-on and experiential learning. Being a kinesthetic and active learner my whole life, my parents and I were excited about the change. All of my teachers in Team 21 were outstanding; I owe much of the passion I have for learning now to the dedication and love that they all poured into me and my peers. One teacher, however, soared far above and beyond any other teacher I have ever had before. Her name was Mrs. Pearce and she would become not only my math teacher but my inspiration throughout school and even today.

Mrs. Pearce is a rare kind of teacher, the sort you only see in movies or read about in books. She showed all of her students an equal amount of care for their education and a genuine interest in who we were as individuals. I loved her positivity, kindness, and knowledge because of how it inspired me to be like her. She always greeted us with a bright smile and actively engaged us in what we were learning that day. Questions were always encouraged and she built up our confidence by giving positive feedback for a job well done. Whenever any kids picked on me or others, she was quick to acknowledge and diffuse the situation quickly. To add, she was also a University of Georgia graduate like my father, so she and I loved to talk about football during the season and my dreams of attending the university in the future.

Very early into classes that year, I observed all of these things and became very attached, viewing her as a mentor. I wanted to make a perfect grade in her class; I would settle for nothing less than a 100 to show her that I cared about the class and everything she did for us. I always completed my homework, studied hours for her assessments, and took time between classes to talk to her about math and life. Eventually, though, I became so obsessed and overwhelmed with wanting to make an A+ for her that I cried before every single quiz or test at home and would push myself to be perfect even when I couldn't. During assessments, I would get very upset when I didn't know an answer and would even tear up in class sometimes because I only wanted to show her how thankful I was to have such a great teacher like her.

When my first "low" grade of a 91 on an exam was passed back to me, I broke down crying in front of everyone and Mrs. Pearce took me out into the hall to see what was going on. I'm sure that she expected me to be going through some sort of family crisis or sickness, but when I told her that I was sorry to disappoint her by getting lower than a 100, she laughed to herself and told me that I shouldn't be so focused on my grades. "Making perfect grades," she told me, "is not nearly as important as loving what you're learning." She taught me that day that while having good grades is important, the process of learning and just doing your best would always be enough to make any teacher proud of their students. Teachers don't demand perfection; they encourage learning and engagement with the material.

That simple conversation nearly 7 years ago changed my entire view on school and learning in general. It's been a long journey to get to a place where I'm more concerned with utilizing what I've learned over earning high marks on one test, but the process has helped me enjoy college so much more. As long as I'm learning, I am happy.

So thank you, Mrs. Pearce, for changing my life and for helping me on my journey of learning and discovery. I'm more in touch with myself than ever since that one conversation years ago, and my experience in college wouldn't have been the same without it.

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Don't Be Afraid of Changing Your College Plan

It really isn't THAT bad...

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I can't claim to have any deep wisdom on life, but I at least have some good experience with a highly turbulent college career. I started as a game design major in a tech college in Rochester, NY, transferred to a college in Texas, and now I'm an English major at CofC.

My college life has been something of a roller coaster.

But I regret none of it. Maybe it would have been easier to stick to the track I was on initially, but I would never have been fully satisfied with it. Now I've finally found my place and, even though it may have taken a lot of shifting around, it was undoubtedly worthwhile.

I don't mean to say that everyone who is slightly dissatisfied with their major should transfer all over the country and change their major(I had to sacrifice the ability to get a minor because of the path I took, so I wouldn't recommend it to most people). I just believe that if you find yourself not liking the classes that are vital to your major or if you can't find a place at your current college, then changing your major or transferring isn't as horrible as you might imagine.

When I started college I was completely confident in what I wanted to do and what my future would look like. I thought it would be ridiculous for someone to stray from their initial path. That idea led to me deciding to transfer later than was smart.

I think everyone should know that having to change your plans for the future, sometimes in dramatic ways, isn't a bad thing. No matter how scary transferring and changing majors can seem, many people have done it before you and many will after, you aren't alone.

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