By Bess Markel

There’s no mistaking when Pioneer Math teacher Ms. James is in the building due to her bright personality, energetic teaching style, and famous sense of humor. When James thinks back on her high school experience, she has nothing, but fond memories. “I loved my high school experience; I had a great time,” says James.

James feels that part of what made her high school experience so great was her involvement in a lot of after school clubs. “I was a cheerleader for four years, I was a member of student government, and I was a student ambassador - so when new students came to the building, we took them around to their classes.” James also recalls a close knit friend group.“ I had a lot of friends, some of whom I had been friends with some since elementary school and some since middle. I’m actually still friends with them now.”

One of James’ most profound experiences in high school was her relationship with her math teachers. “My junior year, my Algebra Two teacher had also been my eighth grade math teacher, so I could not get away with saying ‘oh I don’t know how do this’ or ‘this doesn’t make sense to me’ because he knew me well from eighth grade, and he would say that I wasn’t working hard enough. Sometimes Algebra Two was difficult, but I would spend time with him after school, so that he could explain concepts to me so that I understood them.” James has followed in the footsteps of her Algebra Two teacher, and opens her room for help during lunch and during seventh hour.

James felt that her high school math teachers really opened her eyes to math and helped her realize that she could be great at math if she kept working at it. “I was a strong math student because I stuck to it; I wouldn’t give up on the problem, because I had to find out what the answer was. I just had to. So problems that took my friends who were stronger at math five minutes, it may have taken me five minutes longer, but I knew how to do it and I understood the problem, ” says James. It was because of her Algebra Two and Pre-Calculus teachers, who really cared about their students, that James really learned to appreciate and love math.

James always knew what she wanted to do after college. “I wanted to be a teacher since second grade, but once I reached high school, a lot of people in my community and my church told me ‘oh you don’t want to be a teacher because teachers don’t make a lot of money’, so I looked into other careers.” However, looking at becoming lawyer, an economist, and a computer programmer, James decided that none of them really fit her personality or interested her, so she decided to study teaching. James had already graduated with B.A in Mathematics, but she decided to go back. “I went back to college, got my teaching certificate and the rest is history,” says James.

James never thought she would wind up majoring in or teaching math, however she felt drawn to it because she loved the way it worked. “Nothing about the content or concepts of math change. It’s just the way you approach the problem that changes. Math is basically the same; no matter where you go in this world, two plus two is always four,” says James. She always loved how there are many ways to approach a problem in math, and that everyone can find a way to get there that works for them. “ What I like most about math is there is more than one way to get to the right answer.”

If James could tell one thing to her students, it would be to work hard to achieve their goals. “Set a goal. Even if reaching that goal becomes difficult, don’t give up. Try a different route to reach that goal. And people are here to help you, but you have to be open to their help and their criticism. That’s what makes a good student. Everyone has letdowns, but you have to learn from them and keep moving.”

James feels that part of what made her high school experience so great was her involvement in a lot of after school clubs. “I was a cheerleader for four years, I was a member of student government, and I was a student ambassador - so when new students came to the building, we took them around to their classes.” James also recalls a close knit friend group.“ I had a lot of friends, some of whom I had been friends with some since elementary school and some since middle. I’m actually still friends with them now.”

One of James’ most profound experiences in high school was her relationship with her math teachers. “My junior year, my Algebra Two teacher had also been my eighth grade math teacher, so I could not get away with saying ‘oh I don’t know how do this’ or ‘this doesn’t make sense to me’ because he knew me well from eighth grade, and he would say that I wasn’t working hard enough. Sometimes Algebra Two was difficult, but I would spend time with him after school, so that he could explain concepts to me so that I understood them.” James has followed in the footsteps of her Algebra Two teacher, and opens her room for help during lunch and during seventh hour.

James felt that her high school math teachers really opened her eyes to math and helped her realize that she could be great at math if she kept working at it. “I was a strong math student because I stuck to it; I wouldn’t give up on the problem, because I had to find out what the answer was. I just had to. So problems that took my friends who were stronger at math five minutes, it may have taken me five minutes longer, but I knew how to do it and I understood the problem, ” says James. It was because of her Algebra Two and Pre-Calculus teachers, who really cared about their students, that James really learned to appreciate and love math.

James always knew what she wanted to do after college. “I wanted to be a teacher since second grade, but once I reached high school, a lot of people in my community and my church told me ‘oh you don’t want to be a teacher because teachers don’t make a lot of money’, so I looked into other careers.” However, looking at becoming lawyer, an economist, and a computer programmer, James decided that none of them really fit her personality or interested her, so she decided to study teaching. James had already graduated with B.A in Mathematics, but she decided to go back. “I went back to college, got my teaching certificate and the rest is history,” says James.

James never thought she would wind up majoring in or teaching math, however she felt drawn to it because she loved the way it worked. “Nothing about the content or concepts of math change. It’s just the way you approach the problem that changes. Math is basically the same; no matter where you go in this world, two plus two is always four,” says James. She always loved how there are many ways to approach a problem in math, and that everyone can find a way to get there that works for them. “ What I like most about math is there is more than one way to get to the right answer.”

If James could tell one thing to her students, it would be to work hard to achieve their goals. “Set a goal. Even if reaching that goal becomes difficult, don’t give up. Try a different route to reach that goal. And people are here to help you, but you have to be open to their help and their criticism. That’s what makes a good student. Everyone has letdowns, but you have to learn from them and keep moving.”