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Looking Back on Bridge to Calculus 2019

For the past 25 years, Northeastern University has been partnering with Boston Public High Schools to give rising junior and senior students the skills they need to succeed in their fall calculus classes through the Bridge to Calculus program. As the 2019 session, which started June 24th, draws to a close this Thursday, August 1st, we’d like to give a shoutout to this year’s talented group of Northeastern University PhD Graduate students (Cancan Zhang, Changchang Liu, Chen Li, Hiu Ying Man, Jiewei Feng, Jieying Jin, Lei Yang, Mohamed Elbehiry, Tomas Skacel, and Xuezhu Lu) and Boston Public High School Math teachers (Anthony Bernazzani of Boston Latin Academy, Phuong Cao of Boston Latin Academy, Noemi Famador of East Boston High School, Mike Sheehan of Boston Community Leadership Academy, and Juan Tapia of John D. O’Bryant School). Thank you for lending your time and expertise! We’re already looking forward to another great session next summer.

 

So why should you participate in the Bridge to Calculus program? We talked to two educators working with Bridge to Calculus, Noemi M. Famador, a Precalculus and AP Calculus teacher at East Boston High School and Michael Sheehan, who works at the Boston Community Leadership Academy, to find out.

1. Why are your participating in the Bridge to Calculus?

Noemi Famador: Teaching math in the regular school year, I have to deal with a lot of unmotivated students. I still do my very best since it’s precisely this group of students that I want to convince that math is not that bad and that with the right attitude and extra effort one can actually learn it and love it. This challenging work can be stressful and discouraging. This is also why I always look forward to teaching in the BTC summer program. Students in the summer program are really motivated to learn because they do it to be ready for their AP Calculus class in the fall. They do have their struggles- financial, work, family issues, health, etc – but they are all still willing to come to learn at 7:30 am everyday for six weeks.

Michael Sheehan: I have always loved teaching BPS students, as I feel we each have something to offer each other as a result of our different backgrounds.  I especially love teaching BPS students when they truly want to learn.  Bridge To Calculus students show up voluntarily, early in the morning.  They listen and are not always trying to sneak in some text conversation on their phones like so many of my students during the school year.  By putting in the kind of effort they do, these students get the maximum benefit from what I have to offer them.  I also enjoy being able to treat them as adults; they can wear hats if they like;  they can get up and use the bathroom when they see fit instead of having to raise their hands and ask for a pass.  It’s just an all-around healthy and productive relationship.

Noemi Famador, Precalculus and AP Calculus teacher at East Boston High School, speaks during the Bridge to Calculus award ceremony

Noemi Famador, Precalculus and AP Calculus teacher at East Boston High School, speaks during the Bridge to Calculus award ceremony

2. How did you come to know about the Bridge to Calculus?

NF: Summer of 2008, my math department head (Mr. Francisco Garnica) asked me to take his place in the bridge program. He used to teach it but because of his workload he couldn’t do it anymore. He also wanted me to get to know my AP Calculus kids earlier by teaching them in the summer program. It was a perfect arrangement and I got hooked since then.

MS: I came to know about Bridge To Calculus through its founder, Professor Bob Case.*

3. How long have you been involved with the Bridge to Calculus?

NF: Since summer 2008.

MS: I have been involved with the program since its inception (roughly 1994 or 1995 if my memory is accurate).  I was originally an assistant in the classroom for a few years, then taught a class, then a week, and then became a full time instructor.

4. Why do you love Math?

NF: My love for math started when my Grade 3 teacher would bring me around our city (Cebu City, Philippines) to join math competitions. The training, although gruelling, was also very rewarding especially when I would get some medals and this made my parents really happy and proud. This love for math became deeper such that in college I chose a scholarship to take up BS in Math for Teachers instead of one for Engineering. At that time, there was already that desire in my heart to make other people see the beauty of math. I was thinking I could do that if I teach math. After teaching math in the Philippines for 20 years and then teaching math here in the US for another 20 years – I’m still on that mission. Everyday in class, I always try my best to make the students know more of the beauty of math so they become less afraid of it. Hopefully when they are less afraid, they can learn it better and thus love it a little bit more. I know this is challenging but if I can make a difference everyday in class, then it’s a worthy endeavor.

MS: I enjoy the challenge of math, and believe that developing discipline in math has benefits in other areas of life.  Also, ever since I was a high school student myself, I have felt like math is one of the few areas in life where people from all countries and all walks of life agree on the same solutions to problems (assuming they all understand the problem!)

 

*the program was originally called “Boston Summer Advanced Math”

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