Master of Arts in Teaching Single Subject Candidate Si Young Mah has received the 2017-2018 President's Educator Fellowship, presented by Sue Vaughn on November 7, 2017.
About Si Young Mah
A first grader once came up to me and said, “Math is my least favorite subject because I suck at it.” He delivered this announcement as if he was reciting an unchanging fact. This child, with such sparkly eyes and mischievous curly hair, had just begun elementary school and already given up on math. It was a mundane moment, a commonly echoed sentiment, but that was also my wake up call that something was seriously wrong with math education and that I want to be a part of the change.
Fast forward a few years, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to intern at an urban middle school in New York City. I had been working with a small group of students who were struggling with the lesson that day. As the day was wrapping up, one of the students suddenly brightened up and exclaimed “I think I know how to do it!” As he proceeded to explain to the group one of his peers commented how he was very good at math. The student paused for a moment, perhaps because it was the very first time anyone had complimented him in math. A slow smile spread on his face as the student nodded and claimed, “I am good at math.” That’s the moment which cemented my desire to become a math teacher. I want many more students to be able to have that moment when they realize that they can do math. Students come from various different backgrounds and each carry their own stories of who they are. I firmly believe that each and one of them can be successful in math and that what they learn in math will help them become successful in other areas of life too. As a teacher, I don’t want to wait for these moments to occur just as a happenstance but want to be able to actively promote student thinking and learning in my classrooms.
Currently I am student-teaching at a middle school in Santa Ana and working with students who are mostly English Language Learners and from low income households. It’s not easy. Some days I feel completely inadequate and unfit for the job. However, I remind myself each day the importance of the relationships I am building with the students and relish in the small victories as they come. My goal as a teacher is to always continue to grow with my students, whether it’s my first year teaching, tenth year or twentieth. I want to be remembered as a teacher who really listened, who cared, and who believed in each student’s potential to lead flourishing lives.