Culturally Connected and Mathematically Bonded

A few years ago, one of my students started reading The Pact, the story about the three black doctors who made a commitment to change their lives by pushing each other towards their dream of becoming doctors. I connected with this story because it reminded me of my journey through college with my my friends Sonya and Sonja. We were the only three black students in our college program preparing to teach math.

Prior to college, we didn’t know each other but our roads could not have crossed at a better time. We had the best of math professors in Dr. Vanesa Huse, who understood what we would encounter once we entered the classroom. She made sure that we knew, talked to and worked with Dr. Evelyn Granville, the 2nd black woman to hold a doctoral degree in math. Dr. Huse also made sure that we were equipped with not only the ability to develop innovative, rich instructional content but also the freedom to inject our own cultural experiences into our lessons.

There were countless hours spent studying together and comparing our pre-service experiences.  We also held each other to such a high standard that no slack was given when one or all fell behind.

Before taking over the college math tutor job, I watched Sonja do it with a grace that to this day leaves me speechless. She would have 6 different courses going on at once and would not miss a beat or a student. She tutored through questioning and I adored watching her work.

Sonya had a fire about her that would make grown students shiver. She was not one to be messed with…not in a negative way…more in a “don’t you dare think that you will perform less than you are capable of” kind of way.

I was more of the “I’m going to find 5 million ways to do this” kind of student. I was the inquisitive nerd who would get so excited about our work that they would have to muzzle me to make me shut up. I was also the “tech” person of the group…typical.

We each had our strengths and each of us took a piece of the other into our own classrooms which I’m sure more than counted for our collective weaknesses. We called each other and collaborated over the years as often as we could. Even after our separation, we were better together.

I’ve seen one or the other at times over the years but we haven’t been all together since graduation.

Today, that changes as we will meet for lunch as we discuss possible projects to support others through their college/pre-service experiences.

Before any of that takes place, our coming together again is another moment to reflect over where we’ve been, what we have done and what we plan to do as a result of our intertwining lives.

I would not be the teacher that I am had it not been for these two ladies. This is a feeling that we all hold true.

Stay tuned…

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