Educator Spotlight with Fawn Nguyen
Meet Fawn Nguyen
What grades do you teach and/or what is your title/role?
My current role is Math TOSA (teacher on special assignment) for a K–8 school district. I support math teachers and their students.
What school, district or institution do you work for? Location?
Rio School District, Oxnard, CA
What motivates you?
My own three children and my students motivate me. They are young people whom I get to interact with daily, and it’s a complete privilege to be a mom and a teacher. I’m here to serve them and hopefully make some meaningful impact in their lives. As I encourage and guide young people, I need to follow up and follow through with honorable actions, take pride in my work and my family, and accept responsibility for my mistakes. It’s a good cycle to be a part of—I’m even more motivated when I see growth and resilience in my students, strength, and humility in my children—this is the stuff that fuels me to work harder.
What do you love most about working with students?
I love their thinking, their ideas! I love the rawness of their interaction with a new concept. I’m learning that whatever their solution to a problem is, that’s where they are at. They have taken previous knowledge and made a connection somehow. Even when it’s an incorrect solution, it’s the one they have at that moment, and when we pause to dig deeper into their thinking, it’s always fascinating. Young students make wonderful mistakes in mathematics! I’m afraid we move too quickly past a concept when only correct answers are given. It’s the incorrect answers that we need to take time out to explore. Math causes so much anxiety because traditionally only the correct answer shouted out within the shortest amount of time was valued and applauded in the classroom. I don’t want to be anywhere near that classroom. I want to teach where students are encouraged to think deeply and critically. Where there is joy and laughter. In the right environment, students bring all that. And more.
What’s your math story? In other words, how do you feel about math and why?
Math is beautiful. But I was never taught that, or I didn’t see the beauty in mathematics while in school. I knew it was useful for daily tasks—this utilitarian knowledge will help with cooking, budgeting, building things. I got good grades in math because I was a good rule follower. I memorized and regurgitated. It was not until I un-learned school mathematics that the beauty in mathematics started coming through. Two times five used to just equal ten. Now, it’s an array of two by five. I see ten as the fourth triangular number stacked like bowling pins. Ten is 1010 in base 2. Number patterns are beautiful. Venn diagrams have symmetry, sometimes rotational symmetry. Geometric shapes can be stunning. When we see mathematics as something beautiful, we can truly appreciate and enjoy it. We want to explore and play with mathematical ideas. I want my students to view math through this lens.
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