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Meet the New Math Teachers

Hezekiah Smithstein | hsmithstein19@dtechhs.org | August 30, 2018

There are always changes happening at d.tech. Most recently, d.tech has hired two new math teachers to teach Algebra, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus. These two math teachers are Karen Atkinson and Joanne Da Luz.

Photo by Matthew Silverman

Karen Atkinson, Geometry and Pre-Calculus teacher at d.tech, has been tutoring math since she was eleven years old. As her teacher career has progressed past the traditional school experience, Atkinson has noticed how many other students have difficulties with math in their pasts. As a result, she makes it a point to get to know where her students are at and assure them that math is something that they are, in fact, capable of. “I sometimes call myself a math therapist, because I work with so many people who are traumatized by math,” she says. Another thing Atkinson is adamant about in her teaching is that no student should be left behind. “I will work with you until you get it,” she says. “And some of the kids try to be like; ‘Well I’m the worse case that you’re ever going to see,’ and it’s like, if you believe that, if you want to keep that… but no, not even that. I’m not going to let you do that. We’re doing this.”

Photo by Matthew Silverman

Joanne Da Luz, teaching Geometry and Algebra 1, is looking forward to getting back to teaching after a break of six years working in finance and at startup companies. One of the things that brings her back is getting students excited about class. “I really like it when I can kind of create a rhythm in a class when students are taking over their own learning, and getting excited. When they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I like math now’ or ‘Class is over already?’ That’s when I know we are all having fun.” Having previously been colleagues with Wayne Brock at Life Learning Academy on Treasure Island, she always enjoyed collaborating on creative projects, and loves d.tech’s propensity towards innovation. She also noted that d.tech is a “very vibrant and positive atmosphere”, and when asked if she had anything to add about her new home at d.tech, her enthusiasm was palpable. “I’m super excited to be here,” she said.

Many students are also looking forward to teachers who are more thoughtfully engaged with their students. Senior Jared Almira says, “I hope that we will have a teacher that’s really patient with the students, and knows what they are teaching. I just hope the teachers will be really nice and patient, and very knowledgeable about what they are teaching, because that’s what makes a teacher.”

Junior Chloe Duong echoes the hope that the math teachers will be more knowledgeable and positively interact with the students, suggesting that they should teach “one on one sometimes, or like actually try to give us some review, more content to learn, or give us more practice problems.”

The new teachers are excited about meeting these needs. When discussing personalization, Atkinson questions: “How have we done this so backwards for so long? Like it just makes so much sense. We need to learn how we learn, and we do all learn differently, so why not honor those needs?” With two new teachers ready to embrace much of d.tech’s values around education, d.tech’s math department is once again running smoothly, and ready to start off the year strong.

Additional reporting by Maria McAllister-Young

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