Recent graduate Stephanie Chavez (‘19) is currently employed as a middle school mathematics teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she teaches 7th grade math and 8th grade Algebra. A Secondary Education Mathematics major, she was also heavily involved in outreach and overseas ministries during her time at Bryan. We spoke with Stephanie about her time at Bryan, how her education prepared her for teaching, and what advice she would give to current students.
How did your time at Bryan prepare you for the job you are in now?
My time at Bryan prepared me by increasing my understanding of and fluency in mathematics. I also grew as a teacher though the education department. In classes, I learned the theory of education and various teaching strategies that I use often in my classroom. I also use what I learned through teaching a remedial math class at Bryan and internships I [worked].
What experiences at Bryan were the most formative for you, personally?
The most formative experience at Bryan for me was the Acts Project. I had the pleasure of teaching Zambians how to teach math. During that trip, I realized God did not wire me to be a teacher in a small African village like I used to think. My time in Zambia helped me to let go of my own plan for my life and pursue what God created me for.
Not only did I teach in Zambia for 2 months, I was also the Acts Project intern for 2 years. During that time, I learned practical skills like budgeting, using spreadsheets, how to buy plane tickets, etc. I also learned a lot about myself: I discovered the areas where I am most talented (strategic thinking), the kinds of tasks I really enjoy (research and detailed planning/curriculum design), and what I am most passionate about (mobilizing people to bring the gospel to all nations using their unique giftings).
What classes or professors do you feel specifically prepared you for your current position?
I think Dr. Katy Saynes and Dr. Lorraine Doran were the most helpful for my current job. They offered good ideas for teaching, equipped me with educational jargon, and gave advice on lesson planning and differentiation. The most helpful class was probably Classroom Management (I still use aspects of the classroom management plan I made in that class). I also really liked Universal Teaching Methods because we had to create an entire week of lessons and present an entire lesson to the class. We were given plenty of opportunities to practice lessons and discuss important trends in education.
In addition, Differential Equations with Dr. Smith was helpful because it was during that class that the concept of mathematical modeling really clicked, which is something I now always bring up to my students when they ask me why what we are learning is important.
What would be your suggestion for a freshman student in your department just starting out?
My advice to a freshman starting out in my program would be to seek the help and advice of the teachers. Teachers at Bryan love being involved in student’s lives, and there is much to learn from them! Don’t waste good opportunities! Also, for any student at Bryan, I would advise getting involved with Practical Christian Involvement because it is an outlet for developing a mindset of consistent service using your personal talents and interests.
What would be your advice for a senior preparing to graduate?
My advice is pretty similar: seek the advice of teachers! Also, don’t be afraid to let go of what you are planning (or what others are planning for you) in order to do unexpected things that God calls you to do.