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Those Who Can, Teach


By Juliana Jones

Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM

There are far too few math and science teachers in America. A young Bruin educator is crusading to change that distressing statistic and looking for volunteers, in education and elsewhere, to join in the fight. The outcome, she says, just might hold the key to our nation's future.

Juliana Jones, a teacher at Montera Middle School in Northern California, wants more than a few good men and women to take up teaching math and science. She admits it's not easy. But she knows it's rewarding and, more importantly, it's necessary. And she's ready to help. In this issue's Trajectory, Jones, recently named to an advisory council on the issue by the California Council on Science and Technology, offers guidance on how — and why — students, new teachers and working professionals in other fields with comparable skills can carve out a career teaching math and science.

Why would I want to teach mathematics or science?

Traditionally, we have not been very successful in teaching mathematics or science in this country. We are on a threshold. Our world is changing so fast, our children must be mathematically and scientifically literate. Too often it gets communicated that only a few can actually excel in these subjects or that everything about these subjects has already been discovered. The reality is that all students can be successful in mathematics and science. And we need gifted learners of all kinds to be teachers, not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it is a viable, challenging, stimulating profession with amazing opportunities.

How do you become a mathematics or science teacher?

Start early. If you are a student and already plan a career in secondary mathematics or science education, you should have a major in your subject matter. A five-year teacher education program, where you receive a bachelor of science in mathematics or science and master's in education, is an ideal way to prepare. I completed UCLA's program in math education and was exceptionally well prepared to begin teaching.

Find mentors.

Once you make the commitment, you'll need all types of support as a new teacher. Observe others, be observed, ask questions, share ideas, go to conferences, collaborate with others. If you find a speaker who inspires you, follow them. If you really admire a teacher, ask him/her to mentor you. I have had a mentor who has greatly affected my entire career. She was our team leader at UCLA and went on to become the executive director of the California Mathematics Project. Many of the opportunities that have come my way are because of her. Do not underestimate the connections and relationships you make.