Beginning this week, we’re proud to introduce you to our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners.
Each of these young people has spent 12 months as an AmeriCorps Member, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities. We think you’ll agree that their enthusiasm for teaching and public service is refreshing.
Our first interview is with Tiana Hill (right).
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you came to join City Year as a Corps Member.
I am from Chicago, Illinois, and I graduated from Miami University with a degree in Family Studies. I joined City Year because I want to be a positive role model to students who come from a similar background as me. I wanted to show them that where you come from doesn’t have to determine your future. Being a mentor and helping youth is my passion, and City Year gave me the opportunity to do that. I really love City Year’s mission and I wanted to be a part of it. Someday, I want to start my own community center back in Chicago and felt that City Year would give me experience and ideas that would help me make my dream come true.
And what about the school where you served? What were the highlights and challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor there?
I served at Broadmoor Middle School in Baton Rouge, which serves about 500 6-8th grade students. The school is majority low-income students—95% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Working with the students in the 7th grade was so amazing. Not only did I make an impact on them, but they made an impact on me. At first it was a challenge getting the students to focus on school. Sometimes, the students seemed not to be as invested in learning as they should be. Finding creative ways to get the kids engaged, however, was one of the highlights of my service—I got the opportunity to get to know them and used what they like to get them engaged. They loved to have a competition with one another, and especially against me. After discovering this I came up with games and activities that made them excited about learning even when we are not playing a game.
Briefly describe your history with math, have the concepts always come easily to you or did you struggle with the subject? Did you have a great math teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?
Math has always been my favorite subject. In school math was the subject that I was always great at. I have had amazing math teachers throughout my years in school. Because math came easily to me, my high school math teacher, Mr. E, always went the extra mile to give me work that challenged me—even college level math. He is still one of my mentors today.
What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp and how did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?
My students struggled with algebraic expressions and working with fractions. I created interactive lessons and used manipulatives, such as color-coded cards representing positive and negative integers, so that students knew to add and subtract more easily. This was the way my students learned best. They were very active and learned from hands-on learning.
Please share your favorite math-related anecdote from your time with City Year. For example, was there one student that really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment, did you use a creative method to get a group of students excited about math?
One of my favorite moments this year was when my student, who struggled with the English language, answered a question during the “boys against girls math battle”. Her face lit up and she yelled out the answer. She was very quiet and had problems in her classes because she had just come from Vietnam and didn’t understand what we were saying. I started working with her one-on-one using Google Translate and other translation sites. After a while she started to pick up on the concepts. That day was the first time she answered a question without any help. Everyone in the class cheered her on and the look on her face was priceless. You could tell that she was very proud of herself.
What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?
Learn what your students are interested in and use that when planning lessons. Connect the math problems to something that they can relate to.
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?
STEM is very important for our students and their future because we use this in our everyday lives. As this world changes our children will have to know these valuable skills to survive and keep up with the world.
Lastly, what about your future? What are your plans?
I plan on getting my Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management and Criminal Justice. I want to open up a Community Center that would provide extracurricular and tutoring for kids in low-income neighborhoods for free. I also plan on working with kids in the juvenile justice system.
NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.
—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio
© DIRECTV 2017.