For new teacher, Park City adds up to the right answer
September 22, 2015
No matter what, there’s always an answer.
That truth is what has always attracted Erica Ball to math.
"There’s a bunch of ways you can get to that one answer, and you can take different routes, but in the end we can check and see if your method works and your process is actually sufficient," she said. "I think that’s fun."
Now, as a newly hired math teacher at Park City High School, Ball is trying to make sure her students develop an appreciation for solving the equation, too.
Ball knows that math doesn’t add up to what many students would consider a good time. They often find it difficult and impractical and wonder aloud about what the point is of learning it anyway. But each year, she is hopeful she can change their perspectives, at least a little.
"It is a challenge and it is hard," Ball said. "It’s using a different side of the brain than most classes. But it doesn’t have to be a drag. It can be fun and apply to things that you can use. Hopefully by the end of the year, they have some excitement. That mindset is the transition I hope to see in my students and tend to see in most of my students."
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Ball has a simple method to help foster that change. Rather than lecturing from the front of the class day after day and dispensing worksheets as homework, she assigns projects throughout the school year. The goal is to teach that learning math actually has day-to-day value. Even though not every student will use math in his or her career, it helps develop logic and critical thinking.
"They come to appreciate it more and are more willing to put in effort," Ball said. "And I love the moment when they get it. It can be rare sometimes, but it’s always worth it. It’s always exciting."
Ball is pleased to be teaching in Park City. After moving to West Jordan due to her husband’s work with the military, they discovered they were spending much of their free time here, despite living close to her job at Copper Hills High School. So they moved to town in December, which left Ball hoping to snag a job at Park City High School.
"I put in my notice at Copper Hills and just went full force," she said. "I was just like, ‘I hope that there’s an opening.’ Originally they had said that they were going to hire from within the district — and they did end up doing that — but they had room for one more math teacher. So I was very excited. I felt like I had won the lottery when they said I got the job. I was ecstatic."
Ball was anxious to start after getting the job because of the town’s reputation as a great place to teach. About a month into the school year, she’s starting to see why teachers feel at home here.
"It’s a learning process, but everybody has been extremely supportive," she said. "I love the math department — we’re all fairly young and work great together, and there’s a lot of collaboration. And the administration has made sure I’ve had everything I’ve needed in my classroom. Just overall, the support has been great."
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