I have had many incredible, inspirational teachers throughout my education. They not only knew their content and how to best deliver it, but they knew me. They were talented, knowledgeable and compassionate. They challenged, supported and celebrated their students while imparting a passion for their subject matter. I knew early that I wanted to be a teacher, hoping that I might positively influence the lives of children.
I began teaching second grade in a public school in 1990. It gave me the opportunity to watch children discover their abilities and investigate their curiosities. In 1997, I stepped away from education to grow my family. But shortly before my second child was born, I realized how much I missed witnessing the surprise, joy and excitement on the faces of learners. I also realized that, as challenging as being a new parent was, I missed the daily challenge of the unknown in the classroom environment.
Later, as an adjunct professor in the mathematics and education departments at Southern Connecticut State University, I reveled in watching students in my undergraduate mathematics courses put fears and anxieties aside to discover the joys of algebra.
I began my tenure at Foote as a math curriculum consultant in 2003. Now as the Math Specialist and Chair of Lower School Mathematics, I regularly observe children at work, support students directly, assess students as necessary, provide ongoing professional development to the faculty and make presentations to groups of parents.
I believe I have the best job in the world. Here’s why:
- I get to share my enthusiasm for mathematics.
- It is incredibly exciting to witness aha moments.
- I get to observe the evolution of a child’s thinking and watch her grow over many years.
- Over the course of one day, I get to play game-show host, comedienne and play-by-play commentator.
- I have many chances to learn new subject matter and methodologies.
- Teaching is unpredictable. No two days are ever the same and I have to stay on my toes.
- I investigate what makes children tick and gure out how they learn.
- It is incredibly satisfying when a carefully planned lesson is successful, and it is exciting to figure out what to do differently when a carefully planned lesson bombs.
- I receive a high-five for a good joke and roars of laughter (with a bit of eye-rolling) for a bad pun.
- My students provide me with instant feedback about my teaching performance.
- Teaching keeps me (feeling) young. My students eventually graduate, but I never age beyond fifth grade.
- Teaching makes a difference and has visible results.
Teaching is invigorating and exhausting at the same time. When I started my career, I thought teaching was about what I could offer to my students. Over time, I have realized that the personal rewards of teaching are endless.
Heather Zetterberg is the school’s Math Specialist and Chair of Lower School Mathematics. She started at Foote in 2003 and is the mother of Anika ’13 and Emily ’15.