Meet DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner Gabe Wooley — a City Year Tutor and Mentor With the Heart of a Teacher

  • Aug 06, 2015


Our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners are an impressive group of young people. Beyond the passion for public service that led them to become AmeriCorps Members—devoting a year of their lives to service as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities—what stands out so clearly among them is a recognition of their responsibility to help kids learn the important skills and lessons that they themselves have learned.

This week, we’d like you to meet 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner Gabe Woolley (right).

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a Corps Member.

I’m 20 years old, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I graduated from Broken Arrow high school in 2013, then began working full time for 2 years before working at a summer camp last summer. I ended up loving it so much that I knew I wanted my next job to be something with children. I heard about City Year Tulsa from a friend at church & decided to apply. I joined 2014-2015 City Year Tulsa team and I loved it!

Where did you serve?

I served my first year in City Year at Sequoyah Elementary School with the 4th grade. I worked with an awesome teacher and some amazing students.

What math concept or unit was the most challenging for your students at Sequoyah to grasp, and how did you overcome it?

Several of my students struggled with remembering the steps for math problems. Specifically, multiplication. They would often miss one or two steps and their answers would come out wrong, so I would constantly remind them of the missing steps and walk them through problems using the “Think Aloud” method, which involves doing a problem while talking about each step, and why I was doing it. Then I would have them walk me through one of their problems using the “Think Aloud” method, as if I were then the student.

Was there ever a classic “A-ha” moment when you could just sort of see the lights go on as your students grasped a concept?

I don’t think I had one huge “A-ha” moment, but I had little ones every day—each time a student grasped something that they didn’t get before. It would make me smile every time. So I guess their “A-ha” moments were also my “A-ha” moments, seeing them slowly come to believe in their own capability.

Have math concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject? Was there a teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Growing up, math was always my weakness. My hardest class and my lowest grade. I actually almost failed 4th grade because of my low math grade. By the time I got to high school my math grades slowly started to improve. I still never liked math growing up. I did have two very creative and positive math teachers my freshman year of high school. I would say they were the best math teachers I ever had. They’re really the only ones I remember.

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other Corps Members who work with struggling students?

Keep patience and love for each student and their potential. It will keep you motivated and rewarded. Every student can get to the same place. Some just need a little extra patience and love.

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

The way things are going shows me more and more each day the importance of STEM subjects. Expanding you’re knowledge of them will only take you further in this world.

 And what about your future? What are your plans?

I plan to serve one more year with City Year and with my students while taking college classes at Tulsa Community College for a Spanish Degree. I am also considering pursuing a degree in Elementary Education.

Fantastic. Best of luck, Gabe!

NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.

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 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio