It takes special qualities to become a successful teacher: a commitment to learning, a passion for serving, and a drive for personal excellence. Rebekah Currie, a mathematics education student who was recently honored with the NCCTM Outstanding Mathematics Education Student award ,embodies these qualities. Read her interview to see why MSITE is proud to feature her as our latest Student Spotlight.
Tell us about yourself:
I was born in Fayetteville, NC and lived there until I was three years old. We moved to Lumberton, NC and stayed there until I was seven. After that, we moved to Tarboro, NC where I have lived ever since. I went to Tarboro High School, where I took all honors classes. I did a bunch of volunteering and was a part of the National Honors Society. I didn’t play any sports. I came to ECU in 2011 after graduating from high school at the top of my class and decided to major in mathematics education and mathematics.
Why do you want to become a teacher?
I want to be a teacher because I feel like that is where I can make the most difference. I’ve always enjoyed helping people and doing math. This is a career where I can combine both. I see teaching as a career that will keep me on my toes. I don’t want a stagnant career. Every year I will be able to meet new people and possibly make a difference in their lives. Each student is going to be different and have different learning styles, which will cause me to have to think outside the box and come up with better and more engaging activities and lessons to reach my students. I can’t imagine a better career.
Tell us about any awards that you have received.
I recently won the NCCTM Outstanding Mathematics Education Student award for the Eastern region and was presented with my award at the conference in October. I am a member of several different honor societies at ECU including the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, Golden Key International Honour Society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, just to name a few. I am also vice president of the ECU Gamma Chapter. I am also a Maynard Scholar.
What key qualities do you have that make you a teacher?
I believe I possess patience, empathy and a passion for learning. I have patience because I know some students may not be able to comprehend everything the first time. They are going to need time to let things sink in. My students are also not always going to be the best behaved. I know this from personal experience. I have been in their shoes, which is why I am able to empathize with them. Not all math is easy. I’ve had my fair share of being frustrated because I don’t know how to do something or don’t understand something. I know math may not be their strong suit, so it will be my job to make the math accessible to them, so that no matter the level, they are able to learn math. This brings me to my passion for learning. I want to be the type of teacher that keeps up with the times. If a new method of doing something comes out, I want to try it to help out my students. Things are constantly changing and an effective teacher continues to learn, not only for her sake, but for the sake of her students to make their learning experiences richer and more meaningful.
What are your career plans?
I plan on teaching for at least four years to pay back my service scholarships and then, who knows? I haven’t decided if I will stay in the classroom or pursue higher degrees to become an administrator.
Why did you choose East Carolina University?
I chose ECU because I have always had an obsession with pirates. I think they’re so cool and interesting, especially Blackbeard. One of the school colors happens to be my favorite color (purple). Also, I knew I wanted to become a teacher, and ECU is the best place to learn how to become an educator.
Who has inspired you? Or Who has been the biggest influence on your career? Or Who is a role model for you in your professional life?
When I was in high school, I had a teacher named Ms. Robinson, and she was amazing. She put so much time and effort into her classes and made learning fun. Her classroom felt like family because there was so much love. She would stay after school and even stayed extra late on occasion to make sure students were able to come get the help they needed. She even devoted some of her weekends to doing Saturday academy for struggling students. She gave so much of her time and energy which is what inspired me to become a math educator. I hope to be as caring and understanding as she is and to be as good of an educator.
What do/did you like most about ECU?
I love being a part of the ECU Teaching Fellows and Maynard Scholars program. Freshman year we all had to live together in Umstead. That experience allowed me to make friends with all sorts of people because we were a little community. I’m especially close with the other math education majors. We’ve been there for each other through the tough math classes that made us question if this was the right path for us. If it wasn’t for Teaching Fellows and Maynard Scholars, I don’t know if I would have had that kind of support network. I have also enjoyed how caring the math education department is. I feel like no matter what, I can come to one of them with a problem and they’ll do their best to help. I don’t know if I would have had that same experience at another school. The campus isn’t bad to look at either.
In what ways has ECU prepared you for your field? (opportunities, hands-on approach, molding education professionals)
In terms of preparation for teaching, I feel like ECU has done a pretty good job. Sophomore year, we all have to take an observation class where we just take notes and do some light tutoring. Junior year, we take an apprenticeship class which is a little more hands on. We don’t just take notes on what happens, but we also plan a lesson and teach it to our apprenticeship classroom. We are also supposed to see a little more of what goes on behind the scenes before actually teaching the students. This is supposed to help prepare us even more for senior year. During senior year, we’re supposed to teach a minimum of 3-4 lessons the first semester. After doing that I feel a little more prepared for next semester, especially since one of the lessons I had seen only a couple hours before, and then had to teach to my fourth period, which I had never taught, while my clinical teacher tended to some business. I was so nervous, but after that, I’m not as nervous. I’m ready for senior II when I’ll be teaching full time. I feel like this is a great way to get into the groove of how things are going to be when I get a teaching job of my own. When I get a job, I will basically already have a year of experience thanks to the internship. In addition to the internship, I was able to attend the NCCTM conference to learn new approaches to mathematics in the classroom. There have also been a number of workshops and professional development days available on campus that I was able to take part in.