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

  • Aug 06, 2015

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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.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner Olu Akinrimisi — a City Year Tutor and Mentor — Believes That Hard Work and Relationships Have Been His Keys to Success

  • Jul 10, 2015

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One thing all of our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners have in common—aside from the fact that they’re all really good at math—is a passion for public service. That’s why they became AmeriCorps Members, devoting a year of their lives to service as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

Each year, we profile these outstanding young adults because they are role models for us all, recognizing their responsibility to help others and share the important skills and lessons they’ve learned in life.

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


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

Well, I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised Long Beach, California. My parents moved to states as an act of selflessness. They sacrificed their passions to make sure their children had opportunity to achieve greatness. Moreover, I attended the University of California, San Diego, and from my experience there I was truly able to see the effect service can have on a community. After graduation, I wanted to make a large impact on under-served communities, and serving as a Corps Member was my opportunity.

Where did you serve, and what were some of the highlights and notable challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor at this school?

I served at Lee Mathson Institute of Technology in San Jose, California. The school had about 400 students, from grades 6 to 8. Lee Mathson is predominantly Latino/Latina, with very few Blacks and Asians. Serving for the Lee Mathson community was challenging. The students were faced with many obstacles such as drugs, sex, violence, discrimination, finance, and I can go on. All of these factors were a hindrance to their learning process and it was hard for me to not blame this unjust world for making my student fall behind.

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

The most challenging topic was adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers. This is a topic a lot of the middle school students were suppose know before coming into middle school, however a lot of the students I tutored had no clue. I always took it back to the basics of simply adding and subtracting positive integers. Then I would relate it to money, because they loved money. I even made games where they had to use monopoly cash to invest and borrow. Relating math to reality really helped the students have a better grasp of the material.

Do you have a favorite classroom anecdote from your time with City Year?

One of my students had always been labeled as the troubled child, so teachers never really gave the student any academic attention. During our first math session the student refused to work and said, “I’m stupid, I can’t do this.” For the next five sessions or so we did nothing related to math and just worked on our relationship and getting to know each other. Once we got back into math the student trusted me and their skills improved.

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?

Math has always been a subject that I was fond of. During grade school I always achieved in math. However once I started high school, I noticed my natural talent for math wasn’t there anymore. That was when I really had to rely on hard work and effort. My 10th grade math teacher made sure to always challenge me even as I struggled. From that point I learned that struggling was good and it only meant that I was learning. From then on math only got harder, but stuck with the idea of hard work and was able to do well in it.

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

I believe it is critical to establish a connection with students, get to know them and let them get to know you. Then, work your way into tackling their struggle with math. Also, try to make the learning interactive and real-life based, because the students are more likely to retain the new information being learned.

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?

I believe learning STEM subject is very important, not only to all students but especially for boy and girls of color. In STEM, people of color are a minority, due to many reasons such as social status, lack of educational resources, social environment, and etc. Furthermore, with our world moving toward high-tech it is important to get people into those fields, which means getting more students into college, which also means doing well in subjects such as math. Math is important because it is a critical building block into the world STEM.

 And what about your future? What are your plans?

I will be starting my first year of medical school at the University of California, San Diego. Also, I am in the PRIME-HEq program, which is an inclusive group that will be trained to identify the health disparities within communities in California. Finally, as a physician I want to specialize in pediatrics and work in under-served communities.

Outstanding. Thanks, Olu!

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

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Meet Tiana Hill — Tutor, Mentor, Role Model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner

  • Jul 02, 2015

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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.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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Make better happen by becoming a City Year Americorps Member

  • Feb 12, 2015

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Each year, while most of us simply lament student performance and the general state of education in America, nearly 3,ooo young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are stepping-up to #makebetterhappen by pledging 11 months of service to City Year, an organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling.

And take it from us, City Year Corps members are  making better happen—giving kids the one-on-one attention they need and helping to increase graduation rates across the country. Over the past seven months or so we’ve introduced you to a few of these outstanding young people, winners of our new Math Achievement Award, and the one thing they all exhibit is a strong desire to see every child get the education they deserve.

Check out the video below for a sample of what makes City Year volunteers so special. And if you think you’ve got what it takes to make better happen, apply to become a Corps Member today (applications for 2015-2016 are open until Monday, February 15!).

The potential benefits for both you and the students you serve will be immeasurable.

To receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Meet Paiab Pasha Thao — tutor, mentor, role model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner.

  • Aug 29, 2014

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Not long ago we introduced you to a group of very special young people, the winners of DIRECTV’s first-ever Math Achievement Awards. Each of them had spent twelve months as City Year Corps Members, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

What really got our attention was the outstanding impact these folks had as math tutors. So we decided to take a closer look.

With that, we give you the next in our series of profiles, Paiab Pasha Thao (right).

 

Congratulations on your award! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a City Year Corps Member.

I am from Madison, Wisconsin. I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison and am majoring in Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Education Policy Studies. I am currently taking a break from school while I start my second year of service with City Year.

I serve with City Year because it is my mission to always be connected to education. Though my service, I want to be a part of building and embodying a school culture that values community, equality, safety, and excellence. In addition, I serve because I want others to see education as an art and an outlet of expression. Lastly, I serve to ensure that all people receive the education they are entitled to. City Year gives me this unique opportunity.

 

What can you tell us about the school where you served, and any particular challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor?

I served at John Muir Middle School in South Los Angeles. The school is a little over 1,200 students from sixth to eighth grade. The ethnic background is about 20% Black and 80% Latino. Some challenges I faced as a tutor and mentor at Muir was mainly a culture shock, not only for me but for my students. I come from a different culture than many of our students. However, it was through building key relationships and partnerships with teachers that really allowed me to bridge the gap I had with my students.

 

What about 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 that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

When I was younger, math was a subject that I got fairly easily. I remember being in 3rd grade and doing 5th grade math. However, as I moved towards calculus I struggled with my math skills. I do know, however, that with perseverance and the help of my math teachers and my brother I was able to make it through all of my math classes. For me, when I look at math I know there is always a way I can track how I got my answer and check for accuracy, and that is something I like to pass onto my students as well.

 

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp, and how did you overcome that?

Many of my students were multiple grade levels behind in math. Therefore, many of the skills that were challenging to them were foundational skills such as multiplication and division. However, as the year progressed, we worked more on equations and combining like terms. For many of my students, understanding the steps of solving one and or two step equations was providing them differentiated support. We color coded like terms as well as the steps we took when solving the equations. My students were able to better understand concepts through both tangible concepts and visuals.

 

Please share your favorite math-related anecdote from your time at John Muir Middle School. Was there one student that really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment?

My favorite math moment was when I saw a student of mine teach another student in the class a concept we had recently gone over in an individual session. It solidified that he knew the concept and was confident enough in his understanding to share it with a classmate. We worked really hard with multiple ways to understand distributive properties. In the beginning we color coded different coefficients and eventually used candy to represent coefficients. When showing the student different ways to grasp the concept of like terms as well as distribution, I noticed he had an “a-ha” moment.

 

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

 I would encourage all teachers, mentors and City Year Corps members to engage with their students and utilize the different strategies of looking at a math problem. I used my personal experiences to help me approach my students, and I believe everyone has the potential to tap into how a student learns math best by providing differentiated support.

 

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?

 As a student, I rarely remember STEM being a strong focus. Therefore, as I continued to high school and college, I focused less on STEM because the efforts weren’t there. I believe STEM is especially important because as with our other core subjects, our skills in STEM will continue with us outside of school.

 

Lastly, what about your future? What are your plans?

After my senior Corps year, I plan to go back to the University of Wisconsin Madison to complete my undergraduate degree in Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Education Policy Studies. In addition, I plan to apply to graduate school at UCLA. Ultimately I would like to be a principal.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: For more information about City Year, please visit their web site.

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Introducing Kayla Webb — tutor, mentor, role model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner.

  • Aug 15, 2014

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Not long ago we introduced you to a group of very special young people, the winners of DIRECTV’s first-ever Math Achievement Awards. Each of them had spent twelve months as City Year Corps Members, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

What really got our attention was the outstanding impact these folks had as math tutors. So we decided to take a closer look.

With that, we give you Kayla Webb (right).

 

Kayla, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to become a City Year Corps Member.

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. My parents emphasized the importance of education early and often in our household. I remember my younger brother and I playing those JumpStart educational computer games before playing video games. My mother is a high school English teacher so I was blessed with an incredible in-home asset. After high school, I attended Washington University in St. Louis where I studied Psychology and Children’s Studies. During my senior year I decided to forgo my original plan of applying to graduate school immediately after undergraduate and applied to City Year instead. This decision came after realizing how influential my mentors had been in my academic success and wanting to be that mentor for others. I was blessed with different teachers, professors, and coaches throughout my academic career that not only showed interest in me as a student, but as a person. I feel compelled to invest in our youth in the same way my elders invested in me.

 

What can you tell us about the school where you served?

I was very fortunate to serve in UCLA-Community School during the 2013-2014 school year. UCLA-CS is housed in the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools located in Koreatown. My classroom was a blended class comprised of 4th and 5th grade students. The culture and community of the school were extremely welcoming and proved to be a great atmosphere in which students could learn.

 

What were the highlights and notable challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools?

I found the students to be overwhelmingly receptive of my support, much to my delight. I was able to connect with my students on a personal level despite being an outsider in their community. I was welcomed and embraced with open arms and the relationships I developed with students and staff impacted me just as much, if not more, than my students.

 

What’s 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 is a subject that has always made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t struggle with any concepts until I reached Calculus my senior year of high school. Fortunately, my math teacher, Mr. Spitz, was excellent and he taught my classmates and me a valuable lesson: it’s about the process, not just getting the right answer. Until this point, math was a simple input/output process. He encouraged us to struggle through concepts and processes with the focus on understanding the mechanics instead of a correct final product. He took the sting out of “failure” and cultivated a sense of growing and developing in our skills.

 

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp?

My class spent a great deal of time with fractions and decimals. I noticed that some of my students were struggling with the concept of how many parts make up a whole and tended to group by 10s regardless of the denominator of the fraction (e.g. 10/5 = 1 whole as opposed to 5/5).

 

How did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?

Once I noticed this, I developed a visual representation of wholes and parts of wholes: fraction pizzas! I explained to my students that the denominator of a fraction determined how many slices the pizza should have and the numerator determined how many slices had been eaten. With a dry erase marker, students were able to divide the pizza into the appropriate amount of slices and visually see that 10 slices didn’t always make up a whole pizza.

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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 them there?

A few of my students were struggling with place values especially when working with decimals and knowing how to correctly name these numbers. For example, if the number 35.67 were written on the board, students would say “thirty-five ‘point/dot sixty-seven” instead of “thirty-five and sixty-seven hundredths.” My partner teacher and I developed a dice game to give students more practice with place values and naming them correctly. Students played head-to-head and each began with __ __ . __ on a dry erase board. Each student took turns rolling a die and placing the number they rolled in a blank space of their choice. When placing the number in the blank space they had to name it as well, so that if a student rolled a 6, depending on which space they chose, they either had to say “6 tens”, “6 ones”, or “6 tenths.” The student with the greatest overall number at the end of three rolls was deemed the winner. Once they mastered this version of the game, I began adding spaces and moving the decimal point within the number to increase the difficulty. My students really enjoyed this game and even wanted to make it into a tournament! It was great to see them having fun and mastering a concept at the same time.

 

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

My advice is to emphasize that there are multiple ways to arrive at a correct solution and encourage students to come up with a strategy that works best for them. One thing my partner teacher really emphasized was the sharing of strategies among the students, and students teaching each other different ways to solve the same problem. I found that this increases their problem solving skills and understanding of the concepts.

 

DIRECTV is committed to supporting STEM (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 problem solving and technical skills one acquires through exposure to STEM subjects can be applied to all aspects of life and learning. With the increasingly competitive job market and global economy, it’s important that our students are prepared for success in today’s society. The way in which math concepts build upon one another emphasizes the importance of refining practices and scaffolded learning. We should all strive to be life-long learners, and these skills help to build that foundation in our students.

 

And what about your future? What are your plans?

I am currently still serving with City Year as a Team Leader at Santee Education Complex. I plan to apply to the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Southern California. Serving others brings me so much joy and dedicating my life to advocating for and uplifting others only seems natural.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: For more information about City Year, please visit their web site.

 

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Meet Myeshia Bobo — tutor, mentor, role model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winner.

  • Jul 25, 2014

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Not long ago we introduced you to a group of very special young people, the winners of DIRECTV’s first-ever Math Achievement Awards. Each of them had spent twelve months as City Year Corps Members, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities.

What really got our attention was the outstanding impact these folks had as math tutors. So we decided to take a closer look.

Our first interview is with Myeshia Bobo (right).

 

Myeshia, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to become a City Year Corps Member.

I was born and raised in Carson, California. I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara which I graduated from in June 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Feminist Studies. (Go Gauchos!) From an early age I’ve always had a passion for helping others and knew that my purpose in life is to be a blessing to others the way God has blessed me. In college, I began to develop a keen interest in talking with my peers regarding health and wellness issues. This further manifested into my first leadership position within the education field as an Instructional Assistant for UCSB’s Health & Wellness class. That wonderful experience fueled my desire to become a catalyst for change through education and led me directly to City Year. I knew that City Year would offer me the opportunity to shape a group of youth into thoughtful scholars, but I had no idea the profound transformations they would spark in my own life.

 

What can you tell us about the school where you served?

During my year of service I had the immense privilege of serving at 116th Street Elementary School in the wonderful community of Watts. It was a great honor to work alongside such wonderful educators and staff! Although many of our students come from broken families and poverty stricken households, the 116th community served as a second family for most of our students. The school provided them a positive outlet to nurture their talents and explore their interests.

 

What were the highlights and notable challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor at 116th Street Elementary?

The opportunity to work with the brilliant students at 116th was a life-changing experience filled with many victories, as well as, many challenges. The challenges I faced throughout the year I believe helped me grow as an individual as well as my students; I can honestly say we grew together. One challenge I faced throughout my service was displaying empathy towards my students. Although I was doing my best to develop positive relationships with them, there still seemed to be some disconnect. During a moment of reflection one day, I was reminded of the quote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” For the rest of the year, this was my mantra. The trust that developed from this shift in mindset propelled my relationships with students into a space of comfort and acceptance, thus enabling these students to make outstanding academic progress.

My service at 116th helped me realize that the serving inner city youth is not a challenge in itself; the challenge comes from opening your mind to understand a lifestyle different, yet just as meaningful, as your own, and continuing to hold fast to the City Year value of “belief in the power of young people.”

 

What’s your history with math? Have the concepts always come easily to you, or did you struggle with the subject?

I developed a love for math at an early age. When I was in elementary school I would create math problems for myself at home and sometimes even pretend I was teaching a math lesson to my imaginary students on my toy chalkboard. I shared these stories with many of my students and after much laughter and shrieks of, “Ms. Myeshia, you were a nerd?” my students began to realize that maybe it’s not a bad thing to practice skills they learn at school outside of the few pages of homework the teacher assigns.

 

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp?

During my small group math interventions, I discovered that my students struggled with two digit multiplication. My students had difficulty understanding which digits to multiply first, when to carry digits, etc.

 

How did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?

I tried various teaching models such as: the square model, partial products, and the bow tie method. While these methods worked for some students, they didn’t stick with my math students so I created an interactive card game called “Multiplication Boom” that my students could play to help them practice two-digit multiplication. My students loved it! The game presented the content in a visual and auditory manner which added in their retention while also maintaining their interest throughout.

 

Was there one student who really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment?

One of my favorite memories from my service year was during a place value and rounding lesson I conducted with four of my students. I gave each student a name tag to wear around their neck with a place value written on it (e.g. hundreds). Students were then instructed to put themselves in proper place value order (i.e. thousands, hundreds, tens ones). Once they were in order each student was a given a card with a value ranging from 0-9. I then asked questions such as, “Person in the hundreds place, if I’m rounding this number to the nearest hundred will your value increase or stay the same? Why?” I continued doing this for about 3 sessions when one of my students came up to me and said, “Ms. Myeshia, rounding is easy now. I just have to pretend that I’m you asking the questions and there are imaginary people holding up the numbers.” I chuckled a bit; then I told her that I was glad she felt more comfortable with rounding and that she had a cool strategy for remembering how to round.

 

Did you have a great math teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

I can’t recall one particular teacher or mentor that influenced my love for math, but I had several wonderful teachers that made math fun and applicable to my life which is what I tried to do for my students. I know that not every student will love math the way I do, but the opportunity to help them rethink the way they see the subject was a challenge I encouraged and welcomed.

 

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

I would advise other educators to seek multiple ways to teach a certain concept and be flexible in your approach. If a student doesn’t understand a specific method you taught it doesn’t mean you failed to teach it properly. It just means that you have to get creative, use other resources, and seek best practices from other educators. Some of my best lesson plans came from conversations with other Corps Members where we problem solved and shared ideas with one another. I would also tell them to be conscious of their attitude and enthusiasm towards the subject because students often model their attitudes and beliefs off of those of teachers and parents.

 

DIRECTV is committed to supporting STEM (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?

I believe that STEM subjects are incredibly important in securing a stable future for today’s youth. It is imperative that students obtain elementary knowledge of these subjects at minimum, in order to stay abreast of technological and societal advancements. Math is especially important because many day to day transactions require the use of math skills and without these skills you are left with a disadvantage that can stifle your opportunities for growth. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions are the wave of the future. Our students must catch the wave to soak in the warmth of its victories.

 

And what about your future? What are your plans?

I am currently attending the University of Southern California pursuing a Masters of Arts in Social Work. Once I have obtained my degree, I plan to continue working in the non-profit sector in woman’s rights advocacy or education. I believe that my purpose in life is to use my privilege to secure rights for adverse populations, and I will live out this purpose with dedication and humility.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

NOTE: For more information about City Year, please visit their web site.

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DIRECTV partners with City Year to honor outstanding math mentors

  • Jul 03, 2014

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DIRECTV’s commitment to K-12 schools and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education recently yielded a few proud smiles when the company honored a handful of young people who’ve dedicated a year of their lives to helping at-risk high school students make strides in math.

The five honoreesfour in Los Angeles and one in Denverwere recognized upon “graduation” from twelve months of service with City Year, a volunteer organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling. The students were honored with DIRECTV’s  first Math Achievement Awards, selected for both the  grade average and standardized math assessment scores of the students they served. All five received prize packages that included certificates of recognition and a year of free DIRECTV.

“At DIRECTV, we believe that math is the foundation for all STEM learning,” said Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship. “We were thrilled to recognize these City Year Corps Members for their inspiring dedication to student achievement in math.”

Here are their names, along with the schools at which they served:

In Los Angeles: Myeisha Bobo, 116th Elementary School; Paiab Thao, Muir Middle School; Joshua De Bets, Hollenbeck Middle School; and Kayla Webb, UCLA Community School.

In Denver: Michelle Ramirez, CMS Community School.

Over the coming months, be sure to check this space for interviews with each of the winners. They’re an inspiring bunch, eager to share their experiences and explain how they were able to convince struggling students that they could indeed do the math.

And for more information on becoming involved with City Year, visit their web site.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

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(l. to r.) City Year Los Angeles Executive Director Mary Jane Stevenson; Myeshia Bobo; Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship; Paiab Thao; Joshua De Bets; and Kayla Webb. Not pictured here is Michelle Ramirez, who was honored at a ceremony in Denver, Colorado.