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Encouraging My Students to Look at Math with a New Perspective

31 January 2024

By Ms. Sarah Azzarello, Middle School Math Teacher at Revere Elementary School

Ms. Azzarello

Did you know that math is a lot like cheerleading? I’m not only a math teacher at my school, but I’m also its cheerleading coach. I often have students on my cheer squad tell me that they can’t do some of the moves we are practicing. My response is always the same: “Did you try it?” Instilling that sense of motivation and perseverance is exactly what I try to do in the classroom as well. 

I knew that I wanted to become a teacher because I enjoy helping others. When I was able to explain something to my friends and a light bulb went off in their heads, it made me feel amazing. As a math teacher, students often tell you one of two things: “I love math,” or “I hate math.” I am trying to break down that division in my classroom. Regardless of how you feel about math, I want to show my students that everyone is capable of using the math muscles in their brains to solve problems. 

I’m five feet and two inches, so I’m certainly not the biggest person at Revere. However, I make up for it with my big personality. I’m certainly a people person, and I think my students and colleagues would say that I have a lot of energy. This is only my second year teaching, but everyone at Revere welcomed me with open arms from day one. 

I was honored to be asked to be on the school’s Instructional Leadership Team during my first year of teaching. I was able to be in a room with all of these experienced teachers who listened to me, valued my opinion, and gave me so much confidence. That has pushed me to be more of a leader this year and help other teachers incorporate best practices in their classrooms. 

Leadership is also a key component of my own classroom. This semester, I am aiming to provide my students with more opportunities to be leaders themselves. As a newer teacher, you can often feel pressured to manage your classroom by controlling everything and following your to-do list exactly as it is written. 

But I’ve found that isn’t the best way to promote perseverance and accountability in the classroom. When students feel like they are involved in every aspect of your instruction, they will push themselves a little further. 

My students won’t remember every one of my lessons, but I try to use analogies that will help them remember math skills that will come in handy years from now. For example, when students were learning about translation, rotation, and reflection, I had a whole exercise where we did Simon Says and then I connected it to football. When they were taking a test on these topics, the analogy popped into their heads right away. 

Two additional skills that I’m pushing hard this year are organization and time management. Whether they choose a career that is math-focused or not, these skills will set them up for success in so many ways. 

I love my students, and I will always keep trying to become a better teacher with each new day. I hope that they will continue to keep showing up and trying as well. I know that we can do this. We can make 2024 one of our best years yet. 

Not only is Ms. Azzarello a great addition to Revere and CPS as a whole, but she is also a native of the Chicagoland area. She describes teaching in CPS as a dream of hers that has come true. 

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