In the midst of parenting and teaching, we don’t often get to see the results of our labors. Last weekend, I got a glimpse of the results of my work, and found myself at one point in tears. I attended the wedding of a former student, and got to sit at a table with two other former students and their spouses. I must admit, they turned out quite well.
I taught the bride Calculus I, II and III, and always wished she had become a math major. However, as I heard of her plans to graduate from medical school next week and begin her residency in family practice, I realized that, while one can certainly major in math as a pre-med, it was probably the best decision for her to choose to become a biology major instead. I was thrilled when she told my husband that I was one of her favorite teachers.
One of the women at our table was married now, although I remember her as a single mother during her college days. I remember that she told me she felt a little odd when the other students shared their fond memories of high school, an experience that had ended only months before for them. For this student, those days were a distant, and not always a fond, memory. She, too, earned a biology degree and then went on to earn a master’s degree in education. Today she teaches science to students from a school district that is not well funded. She is known to go out into the neighborhoods on weekends to gather the students for extra study sessions so they have a better chance of passing the required standardized tests that are the norm these days.
I sat next to the other student, who had minored in math, and had gone on to earn a master’s degree in environmental engineering, She told me that she “took that minor in math and got a master’s degree in engineering”. She proudly said that she “uses statistics every day”. I remember her as the one voice in “History of Math” who was willing to argue that math is invented rather then discovered, while the other students just agreed with each other while I struggled to start a discussion. She was the newlywed at the table, having been married only months before at what sounded like an amazing “destination wedding” in San Diego. Attended by many of her classmates from Ursuline, it was officiated at by another one of her fellow Ursuline classmates. As we chatted, I was thrilled to hear that she has vague plans to run for political office some day. I am completely convinced that that the lone voice in my History of Math class will spend her life being a voice for the minority opinion.
It is not often that a teacher or parent gets to see the fruit of their labor, but I had that opportunity last weekend. For one magical night, I saw what all that grading and preparing leads to. And what I saw made me proud.