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ThankATeacher Math (and Life) Lessons for an English Nerd

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4 – 8), we’re saying ‘thank you’ to the extraordinary people who work so hard to inspire student success, even beyond the classroom walls.  We asked NMSI team members to reflect on some of the amazing teachers who have made a difference in their lives. Today, our grants manager Stephanie Markman, a former classroom teacher herself, tells us about Mrs. Bargsley — her 11th grade statistics teacher at Amarillo High School.  Throughout the week, we’ll continue to share our stories and we invite you to add your own in the comments section below.
I am an English nerd through and through. I have loved reading since childhood, majored in English in college, taught English to middle school students and now spend much of my professional life writing. But my favorite teacher actually taught the subject that I disliked the most, the one that I started to hate in 4th grade – math. It started with long division, and from then on, I didn’t like it, didn’t really get it and struggled.
However, in my junior year of high school, learning from Mrs. Bargsley eased the pain. I dreaded the start of my statistics course. I knew the work was going to be really challenging, that I’d have to complete a major project and that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. But Mrs. Bargsley was understanding, encouraging and enthusiastic. She patiently worked through problems with me, spent time explaining things that seemed incomprehensible and always answered my questions in a way that I understood. When I was struggling in my pre-calculus class with another teacher, she helped me with that work, too. When I was nervous about passing my International Baccalaureate exams to get my diploma, she gave me study materials, even though I was no longer in her class. I know that without her, I wouldn’t have passed those high-stakes exams.
Mrs. Bargsley’s time and guidance was invaluable to me, but when I look back on all my teachers, what makes her stand out the most is her passion for teaching and for students and the joy she brought to her work.  While I may not remember how to complete a truth table or calculate a standard deviation, I remember the encouragement she gave me, her dedication to all her students and the zest she had for helping her students learn. Even though she taught the subject I most disliked, Mrs. Bargsley impacted much more than my math skills. She helped me gain a sense of accomplishment in an area in which I hadn’t found much success before. She fostered grit and optimism in all of us because she demonstrated them herself. And I always I knew I could depend on Mrs. Bargsley for help, an encouraging smile and a hug. Those things have stayed with me much longer than my knowledge of statistics.