COE Doctoral Candidate
"I view lessons as memory makers, and I want to make memories that will last them a lifetime."
Tafuna, American Sāmoa
- PhD, Education: Curriculum & Instruction
Your current position? How long?
I am in my second year of teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in Hurricane, Utah. I have about 500 students who range from kindergarten to 5th grade, and each class comes to me for an hour a week of enrichment in those content areas. We build water bottle rockets, catapults, popsicle stick bridges, marble rollercoasters, leprechaun traps… basically, a lot of hands-on engineering projects that get kids excited about science and math. It’s really fun, and I love it.
Do you have any other degrees from the COE?
I have a BEd in elementary education and an MEd in curriculum studies, both from the UH Mānoa College of Education. I am currently an ABD (All But Dissertation) working toward a PhD in education with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction.
What is ethnomath?
It is culturally relevant mathematics that uses traditional materials and activities to teach. During my last two summers in Sāmoa, I used traditional cultural activities, such as cooking in an umu and extracting and dyeing cloth for weaving, to teach measurement, reflection, rotation, and other geometry concepts. The courses were a product of Project MACIMISE (Mathematics and Culture in Micronesia: Integrating Societal Experiences), led by retired COE Professor Sandy Dawson. I owe a lot to him and other professors, like Neil Pateman and Joe Zilliox, associated with this project.
How do you relate to your students as a teacher?
The best thing I can do is to plan lessons that have a meaningful impact in the lives of my students. I view lessons as memory makers, and I want to make memories that will last them a lifetime. I like it when my students get their hands dirty and apply as much of reality into the classroom as possible. I want them to be inspired and motivated, to realize that math is fun; math is everywhere; and math can be COOL!!!
As an educator, when do you know you’ve been successful?
As Steve Spangler once put it, “If it gets to the dinner table, then as a teacher you know you have been successful.” When students get that twinkle in their eye, and they can’t stop talking to their family or friends about a lesson, then it has had the impact that I wanted it to have. They often turn around and inspire me too.