I always heard my older brother talk about how much he learned in Sequential I math class in 8th grade at Friends Academy and how much fun he had in class. I wanted to meet his teacher, Mrs. Trista Giacalone. When I was interviewing her, I could see the excitement in her eyes and hear it in her voice, that she loved teaching math.
She told me that, when she was growing up, one of her favorite subjects was math and that math always made sense to her. She found history and English interesting and loved reading but when describing math she said, "The light was always on for me in math." In elementary school, she started to realize her interest in math, but it was at Floral Park High School in New York when some of her friends would say how they didn't like math and she would answer without hesitation, "Oh, I love math. How could you not like math?". Math made sense to her, "It worked, it clicked, it excited me and I realized it was the subject for me to major in."
But she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. When she was in kindergarten and the teacher would ask the class what they wanted to be when they grew up, her friends would answer, a fireman, a lawyer, a policeman, etc. But Mrs. Giacalone would reply, "a teacher!" She always thought it was the most exciting occupation. When the notices would come in the summer about her teacher for September, she would get so excited thinking about how fantastic her new teacher would be. Then she would think, "Wow, I could be one of those people who brings so much fun to the classroom and so much joy to those kids!"
Her love for mathematical sciences and her love for teaching all came together in college, and that guided her in her career choice. She graduated from SUNY at Geneseo where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and a teacher's education certification.
When I asked her to describe her work, I was so impressed with the joy and enthusiasm in her first words, "Oh, my work, it's so exciting!" She teaches two different courses in 8th grade math, both Introduction to Sequential I and also the Sequential I program (a ninth grade course with a high school final exam). She is excited to teach those students who feel they are developmentally ready to handle the faster pace and challenge of this program, but she has also a lot of time to help the kids that need more guidance and more support. She likes teaching at Friends Academy because of the small class size so she can get to know the kids so well and also the flexibility in her classroom curriculum to meet all the student's needs. She has wonderful opportunities to be part of the school community by coaching different sports, being class advisor, and chaperoning many activities and class trips.
She is enthusiastic about her personal interests, as well. She loves hiking, biking, swimming, volleyball and spending time with her family. She loves being out in nature and staying active.
As I have always wanted to be a teacher since I can remember and since math is one of my favorite subjects, I was very interested in Mrs. Giancolone's advice to me and to other students.
She told me to get as much information as I can about how to have fun with math. There are so many resources on the Internet, so many bonus questions and challenge questions, twisters and brainteasers. At my age, I should definitely go for the more exciting, fun and challenging kinds of math and look into projects and extra-credit assignments that are different than classroom work.
In high school I should always communicate with my teachers about where I want to go and what my goals are. Mrs. Giacalone said that this is very important because she had a lot of good guidance when she was in high school.
Her advice for college is to choose what aspect of math you like the most; whether it's more abstract, statistical, etc. I should figure out which way I want to go and have fun with it. She said, "Remember, Alex, that math should be fun."
I felt very fortunate to be able to interview Mrs. Giacalone. My teachers have always given me inspiration to do better. She was really an inspiration for me. The students who have her are lucky. She loves what she does; she loves teaching. I really hope that someday I will love teaching as much as she does!
About the author: My name is Alex Maccaro and I am 12 years old and I am presently in 7th grade at Oyster Bay High School, Oyster Bay, New York. I have always liked to make math fun with my teachers by remembering songs and rhymes, and playing math games to help me understand math. I am proud to be taking accelerated math, which is very hard and challenging, and I'm doing very well. My favorite section of math is rational numbers and fractions. My least favorite part is word problems. Since I am in accelerated math, I try to do extra credit assignments to learn more and feel proud about myself. I had a lot of fun interviewing Mrs. Trista Giacalone for this essay contest.
Some essays have been modified for posting on the AWM web site.