From the time she began her studies at USF, Mathematics Education major Alicia Miller has taken on opportunities such as working as a resident assistant for the Education Living Learning Community (LLC) and becoming a part-time tutor through USF’s Tutor-A-Bull program. Now, with graduation just around the corner, she reflects on her teacher preparation program and the experiences that have led her to where she is today.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
Both my parents are educators, and I grew up running around the halls (at their school). My dad taught criminology for a while and my mom was a business teacher and now they’re both in administration and they’ve been teaching for about 26 years. They really inspired me and put education in front of my face every day, so I later realized that education was going to be my end goal. I’ve always been good at math, so I decided to pursue mathematics education.
What motivated you to choose USF? When did you begin your studies?
Actually, that’s a funny story. My dad told me to pick UCF or USF. So, I was looking into both schools and that’s when I started looking at USF’s College of Education. I decided to come to the (College of Education’s) High School Open House and I met Lindsey Williams, who is amazing, and Jeany (McCarthy) and the whole (advising team in Student Academic Services) and I was like, ‘Okay, this is where I want to be.’
I began my studies in the summer of 2018 and I’ll be graduating in spring 2022. I’m a resident assistant (RA) for the Education Living Learning Community (LLC) as well. When you’re an RA, you can’t be an RA for a semester, you have to be present for the whole year, so I prolonged my program so I can stay here a little longer.
What experiences at USF have prepared you for your future as a mathematics educator?
Definitely the internships! It’s honestly the best experience you can possibly have.
I think that’s a really great thing USF does, especially because there are a lot of educators around the world who’ve told me that their first time in the classroom is when they start their job. The education program here puts you in the classroom right from the start. Even with just observations and teaching a little bit here and there in the beginning, the great thing is that you’re in the classroom and you’re getting that experience.
Another experience that’s kind of RA-related is that we do a lot of lesson planning, we have a lot of conversations (on education), so that has also prepared me a lot.
I also started (working for the) Tutor-A-Bull program in the fall of 2018 and I’ve participated in every semester except this one. I’ve done it for three years and it’s been great. I was at Jennings Middle School the whole time, except when we went virtual, and they were assigning students (for us to tutor). Ms. Bennet, the liaison at the school, is amazing. The kids are also great and they really did need that one-on-one tutoring (provided) through Tutor-A-Bull. I got to help them understand fractions or understand that you have to move the decimal place over when you multiply decimals because they just weren’t grasping that in the classroom. So, when you help them one-on-one it’s great because they’ll come back to you and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I finally understood this in class.’
Who are the mentors at USF that have guided you throughout your educational journey?
I would definitely say Lindsey (Williams), as my academic advisor. I work with her as a partner for the LLC too, so she’s just a phone call or text away. In the Mathematics Education program, definitely Dr. Ruthmae Sears. She’s always there to help me with anything I need! She starts guiding you from the beginning of the program until final internship, and the preparation she’s provided has been pretty amazing.
What’s a favorite memory you have from your time at USF?
I had this one kid in Tutor-A-Bull at Jennings (Middle School) and I had him my very first year. At the time, you could tell he really didn’t want to be there, but he finally opened up and I got him to work with me. It ended up being a really great year because I had him for two semesters. So, when I came back the next year, the liaison told me that he specifically requested me. So, the fact that he still wanted to be tutored by me, made me feel like I did something right.
What are the challenges or difficulties you’ve had throughout your academic journey? In what ways have you overcome them?
Definitely, COVID-19! It really hurt us because we didn’t know when we were going to go back into the schools and like I said earlier, that’s the biggest part of experiencing the classroom firsthand before teaching on your own. Working with students virtually wasn’t so bad, but you miss many things on Zoom that you see in person.
What do you hope to accomplish after finishing your studies at USF?
I want to be more knowledgeable, not only in the subject matter of math, but also in how I can become the best teacher I can be for my students. Also, just picking up everything I see in the classroom now, so I can apply the (teaching) experiences I’ve had to my future. I would like to teach in a high school because I do like higher-level mathematics (subjects) like statistics and pre-calculus.
What makes you passionate about teaching?
When it comes to math, I feel like kids already come to the classroom shut down. Everyone looks at math like it’s the hardest thing ever, but in reality, it’s training you for things you don’t even know about.
When kids say, “Why are we doing this? We don’t need this for our future,” my collaborating teacher (CT) at Wharton High School usually says, “Well, when have you ever stopped a football game to do a pushup? No, you’re not doing a pushup in the middle of a football game, but you do push-ups in practice all the time. So, (with math), you’re working those brain muscles and you’re working how to function so in the future, you’ll know what to do with any obstacle that comes in front of you.” I definitely see what I do from that view.
What’s your advice for students who have an interest in becoming an education major?
I would say, if you know you want to do it, just do it. Don’t listen to anyone else who says, “you won’t make enough money,” or that “the kids are awful.” Nowadays, there are so many people who say (becoming a teacher is) not even worth it anymore. But, if you’re passionate about teaching, just do what makes you happy! You’ll have a good life in the end if you do what you’re passionate about.
USF’s Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education explores educational foundations, methods, and theory and practice of teaching mathematics in grades 6-12. It is designed to prepare effective teachers of middle and high school mathematics who are knowledgeable, reflective, caring, and able to meet the needs of a diverse student population.