By Lily Vartanian – Looking back on my past education experiences, I have found that math was never a particularly interesting or easy subject as a student. Yet, my experiences, and particularly one educator in high school, altered my outlook and mindset towards mathematics greatly.
Entering high school as a not-so-confident math student, I had a wonderful Algebra teacher, Mrs. Susan Supanich. Mrs. Supanich—also known as “Mrs. Sup”—became a teacher that not only inspired me to excel in math, but also expected a high level of achievement and effort from each of her students, which also pushed me to success. Although I was already a good Algebra student, that did not stop Mrs. Supanich from challenging my abilities. Mrs. Sup encouraged me to move to an advanced geometry class for my sophomore year. She believed that I could meet the demands that higher math expected—and although I was not given the same opportunities before–I felt supported and prepared by Mrs. Sup.
My junior year of high school, I was placed into Mrs. Sup’s advanced Algebra II with Trigonometry class. I had heard the rumors from previous students of the challenge of the class and tests, but I was ready to tackle it. Yet, just weeks into the class my confidence was crushed after many failed tests and quizzes. Mrs. Supanich offered make-up tests, as well as help before, during, and after school, but the class did not seem to make sense to me. I felt defeated as I moved back to the lower mathematics class halfway through the year, with the guidance and best intentions from Mrs. Supanich. Yet, reflecting on this experience and class, the failure I felt never comes to mind. It is the fact that Mrs. Supanich went above and beyond her call as an educator to help me succeed. I feel as though I was lucky to experience both extremities when it came to math— there were points where it was easy, and points where it was time-consuming, difficult, and hard work. Mrs. Supanich knew what I was capable of, and challenged me. But she also saw my struggles and endeavors in mathematics, and was there to guide me.
Mrs. Supanich’s true role came to me after my struggles that junior year in math. She gave me the opportunity to tutor one of her freshmen Algebra students, which I had never done before. Through this opportunity, I found that in teaching others, I felt proud and accomplished. I had the ability to help someone succeed, in the same way Mrs. Supanich had for me. I had been in the position as a struggling student, and I could relate; I knew the satisfaction of understanding math, and how hard that opportunity was to come by at points. Without this chance, I would not be on my path to becoming an educator today. Without her dedication and commitment to education, without the hope, understanding, and praise, and without the opportunities, I would not be where I am today.
Mrs. Supanich truly has inspired me and given me the confidence to want to teach others what was once my own “dreaded” subject in school. The imprint she has made on my life makes me only hope that I can be as wonderful of a teacher as she has been as I move forward into my future career.
Lily Vartanian is a class of 2015 Elementary Education and Mathematics major from Shorewood, Wisconsin.