Certainly math and moth; possibly myth and mouth. I’ve been involved with education of sorts ever since I was in high school. One of my first summer jobs was teaching sailing to kids in the junior sailing program at Naval Station, Norfolk. In college at ODU I majored in math and after sailing in the moth world championships in England in 1977, I started teaching at the old Norfolk Catholic High School. I came to Bishop Sullivan Catholic in 1998 and have been the math department head since 2002.
My vocation is teaching. At Bishop Sullivan we have the freedom to explore varied concepts and challenge each other to learn more. I enjoy the interplay of ideas in helping my students see the “big picture.” Humor and real-life examples are part and parcel of my spiel. Whether it’s juggling beanbags or equations; talking about cycling over mountain passes while discussing saddle-points in three- space; urging my rowers to finish a 1500 meter sprint or encouraging my AP Calculus students to push all the way to the end of a 3 hour exam, I always try to teach in context. My students will tell you that I often tell “stories.” While going off on a tangent can initially seem disorienting, I bring the discussion back to bear on the topic at hand.
One of my favorite analogies
is that of standing on a mountain peak in the Shenandoah National Park
overlooking a fog-shrouded landscape. Other nearby prominences seem to be isolated islands floating on the clouds. If there is a ridge between a couple of nearby peaks it will be revealed only as the fog recedes to show the connection. As the fog recedes more and more it becomes obvious that all of what originally seemed to be isolated are really connected. So, too, with ideas. My job is to help remove the fog from my students’ perception in mathematics. The distance formula in algebra, the Pythagorean theorem in geometry, the absolute value of a complex number or the length of a vector in trig, the speed of an object moving in space – all are the same idea – all are connected.
Yes, teaching math, my vocation, and sailing my foiling moth, my addiction, for sure. But also helping my students to see the big picture by humor, story-telling and analogy are all facets of this mth guy.