By Sabrina Bong — When I was in seventh grade, I was certain of two things: that NSync made the best music ever, and that math was the worst subject in the world. My feelings on math only intensified as I began learning algebra.
What kind of person would put letters in a math equation? It seemed like a cruel trick to anyone who disliked the subject. It wasn’t that I was particularly bad at math – I got pretty good grades in it – but since it took longer for me to process and understand, I hated it.
One day, my math teacher asked me to stay a little longer after class to speak with her. I was deathly afraid that she was going to tell me I had just failed a test, or that I clearly wasn’t understanding the concepts. But instead, she asked if I would be willing to tutor a student in math. He was failing the class, and really struggling to understand basic principles.
Mrs. Patricia Heim had been my favorite teacher ever since I started middle school. She was a teacher who truly believed in all of her students, and pushed each of us to achieve our maximum potential. She never just gave us the answers; she made us find the answers. If we went up to her and complained that we didn’t understand a certain math problem, she would walk us through a problem that was very similar and then have us do the original problem on our own. She would spend countless hours after school helping students out. Perhaps I felt the need to say “yes” to helping the student because she had helped me so much.
“I don’t like math though,” I reminded her.
She reminded me that even though I didn’t like math, I still got excellent grades in it. “You may not like it, but you’re good at it,” she said. “And this would really help me out as well.”
I am happy to say that the student I helped passed math that year. But I also learned a valuable lesson. I had started off tutoring the student as a favor for my teacher. What ended up happening was that I realized how much I really love teaching others. It is true what teachers say: there is no greater reward than seeing a student’s face light up when he or she finally understand a concept that they had struggled to understand. Seeing that student’s face when he came in to tell me that he had passed math was incredible.
I am not sure if Mrs. Heim meant to pass on her love of teaching, but she did. She inspired me to continue working with students and help them achieve their best. I hope she would be happy to hear that I continued to tutor in math through high school and college. Now, as a future school counselor, I still work a lot with students and push them to succeed.
Thank you, Mrs. Heim, for showing me how wonderful teaching can be!
Sabrina Bong recently finished her first year of graduate school at Marquette. She is working towards a Master’s in School Counseling. Sabrina also graduated from Marquette in 2011 with degrees in Psychology and Broadcast and Electronic Communication.