Educator Spotlight: Amanda Angel
Meet Amanda Angel
What grades do you teach, and/or your title/role?
I teach fourth grade math (we are departmentalized in fourth and fifth grade at The Bright School). I teach two on-level math blocks and one advanced math block, which is project based and called Math Academy. I also try to lead the charge school-wide to encourage fun math events and family involvement in math at all levels, as well as leading our school’s math professional learning community team.
What school, district, or institution do you work for? Location?
The Bright School is an independent elementary school located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Who inspired you to become an educator?
My own fourth grade teacher was a huge influence on my decision to become a teacher. I just loved her, and I always knew I could be that teacher that kids knew cared about them.
What motivates you?
The lightbulb moments when you hear, “Ohhhh!” or, “Ah, now I get it!” are my gold! I love seeing my students grasp a concept that at one time looked difficult to them, and seeing full understanding unfold before my eyes. It still amazes me that I can set up lessons that foster that kind of discovery, and I live for those moments.
What advice would you give to your first-year teacher self?
Stop being so stressed out. I look back at the level of stress I carried during my first few years, and nowadays that just seems silly. I am so grateful that I finally figured out a work balance that works for me.
What do you wish more people knew about being an educator?
We are professionals. We think and work hard through a multitude of issues all day, and most of us have two or more degrees. While at times I wish that I could just teach math, any teacher knows that the instruction is just the tip of the iceberg. We have to keep up with so many different variables happening with so many different kids and families, plus school-wide events, standardized testing, parent-teacher conferences—we skillfully juggle it all! And every single bit of it takes an utmost level of intelligence, training, professionalism, and most importantly, love and care.
What do you love most about Bridges curriculum/math apps/MLC?
In my experience as an intermediate and middle grade math teacher, I always felt that the curriculum provided by the school or district needed supplementation or that it did a poor job meeting student needs as well as matching state standards. I was always reinventing the wheel myself with other curricula. Bridges is the first curriculum that I fell in love with instantly. I love the way we build depth of understanding with each skill set, and we are not simply teaching steps to an algorithm. Workplaces give me a carrot at the end of the lesson where students are excited to “play a new math game,” while secretly I know they are practicing their skills. Additionally, Number Corner provides an opportunity to preview upcoming topics and engages us in rich student-teacher dialogue. With Bridges and Number Corner, my students truly understand what is happening with the number relationships because we have worked with the topic in so many different modalities.
What do you love most about working with students?
My students are my sunshine. I love to build relationships with them, and we truly look forward to seeing each other daily. I also adore seeing how far they can come academically within a school year. I have seen students begin the year with a low level of confidence in math, and with encouragement and guidance, I have seen them blossom into students who love math. One misconception that I combat in my classroom is that girls aren’t good mathematicians. Even in this day and age, false gender expectations still creep into our students’ minds. I make a point as often as I can to tell my students to never take this kind of self-limiting belief upon themselves—girls are just as capable of being excellent mathematicians as anyone, and I love to see them owning their mathematical talents! Don’t worry; I encourage and uplift my boy mathematicians as well! I try to allow them to explore their creative sides as well, and they never cease to surprise me!
What’s your math story? In other words, how do you feel about math and why?
Some of my best memories with my dad are doing my math homework together. I loved how he would show me “what the teacher wanted” and then he would show me a much more interesting strategy. This may explain my propensity and love for teaching my students several different approaches to the same problem or multiple strategies for checking work. My dad encouraged me to think in terms of the whole number and in patterns, while at school we were taught to think in columns. Listen, if all we can do is teach kids a series of steps that have a limited number of possibilities column by column, then we are way underestimating their intellect. I have always been able to find a certain joy in mathematics, so becoming a math teacher was quite natural. I love to inspire that same curiosity, hunger, and joy for math in my students.
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