Educator Spotlight: Emily Payán

Amberlee Cooper, Content Marketing Manager

Meet Emily Payán

What grades do you teach, and/or your title/role? 

Second grade.

What school, district, or institution do you work for? Location?

Adams Elementary in Anoka-Hennepin, a suburban district of Minneapolis, MN.

Who inspired you to become an educator?

My son's experience as a student of color inspired me to become a teacher and continues to inspire me in working toward educational equity. My aim is to be someone who gives all students the space to embody who they are and be heard, valued, and celebrated while maintaining high expectations. 

What motivates you?

Seeing student progress! It’s amazing to watch students grow in their comfort with math and the academic risks they’re willing to take.

What advice would you give to your first-year teacher self?

Don’t sweat the small things! You’re never going to know it all, but you’ll learn a ton along the way and get better as you go.

What do you wish more people knew about being an educator?

Being an educator is an opportunity for social justice. We are making decisions every day that can change the trajectory of students’ lives. Every day is an opportunity to support students in seeing their potential and developing the determination to push toward their dreams. 

What do you love most about Bridges curriculum/math apps/MLC?

I love the opportunities for hands-on learning and student-to-student discourse! I think this has been lacking in many American math classrooms and am so appreciative of MLC’s work to change that.

What do you love most about working with students? 

They are sponges, fully invested in their learning. I absolutely love celebrating with them when they meet their goals and can see for themselves how much growth they’ve accomplished.

What’s your math story? In other words, how do you feel about math and why? 

Math was really hard for me in my own schooling. I’d often forget a step in an algorithm and lacked the conceptual understanding needed to be successful. Going through my math methods course in college changed all that for me. The course focused on developing a true foundational understanding rather than memorization. I am now devoted to developing this in my students while they’re young so that they are able to have confidence in themselves much earlier than I did.

If you would like to nominate an educator to be highlighted, please email

Image of Emily Payán