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From Tutor to Teacher

NMSI’s Teacher of the Month is Unwaveringly Committed to Student Success
When we heard about Olympian High School Calculus & Engineering teacher Julio Avasan’s “math magic” and faithfulness to helping his students conceptualize and understand calculus, we knew he fit the bill for NMSI’s Teacher of the Month. We’re proud to recognize Julio and his dedication to meeting students where they are, sparking interest in math and setting them up for success in their STEM education.
How did you become a teacher?
Math has always been my passion. Tutoring students and seeing their mathematical growth confirmed my decision to become a math teacher.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
No student should be left behind. Teaching is not a competition, but rather a way to lead students to realize their potential. My students’ success is my success.

What gets you up in the morning?
The excitement to learn new things along with my students. Teaching is about learning from mistakes, failures, but most of all, from all those human beings we serve: our students.

What keeps you up at night?
The inability to convince those who give up on their education that it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to feel frustrated, because at the end of the day, it is through these experiences that we learn the most.
What’s your definition of success?
Success is the combination of humility, ignorance, failures, persistence, and most of all, motivation to reach your goals.
What do you want your students to gain from their time in your classroom?
I want my students to gain the ability to think and process their mathematical ideas. Develop skills to grow both as a student and as a human being. It is through dialogue and reasoning that we develop new knowledge.

How has NMSI shaped your classroom or teaching experience?
NMSI has given me the opportunity to work with other experienced math teachers to strengthen my mathematical understanding, and to develop new best lessons to support ALL my students to find success.

How would you encourage other teachers?
I encourage teachers to let go of ego. Sometimes we are unable to comprehend mathematical concepts well enough to lead our students to learn. It is okay to say, “I need someone to mentor me. I need support to become a better teacher.”

Tell us about a favorite “lightbulb moment” you had with a student.
I had a student who asked me to allow him to drop out of AP Calculus BC. He said he didn’t feel like he was a Calculus student because he failed the AP Calculus AB exam and didn’t want to feel like a failure.

I told him that he was my “new academic project.” I wasn’t there to judge him but to guide him to conceptualize mathematical ideas. He agreed and we worked on his algebraic and calculus foundation.

It took almost a semester before he was feeling successful. He earned a B during both semesters of AP Calculus BC. The best gift came when he passed the AP Calculus BC exam with a 4 and a sub score of 5 for AP Calculus AB. He is now studying engineering.
Congratulations to Julio and Olympian High School for inspiring the next generation of problem-solvers!
Know a great teacher who deserves recognition? Email marketing@nms.org to tell us why you think they’d be a great NMSI Teacher of the Month.
What they said:

Lora Bumatay, Assistant Principal, Olympian High School
Mr. Avasan had an incredible pass rate for the 2018 AP Calculus BC exam. Out of 44 students who took the exam, 42 passed mainly with 4s and 5s, a 95% pass rate! Mr. Avasan worked with these students before school, at lunch, after school and on the weekends to get them prepared.
Mr. Avasan is not only a math teacher, he is in charge of our engineering program and also robotics program. This year, it is one of his priorities to increase the number of female students taking his engineering class. 
Mr. Avasan has a gift of building student confidence and making them believe that they can achieve any goal they set out for themselves. Parents and students are grateful to have him as a teacher. He models the work ethic, belief system, and all-around caring nature that we want every teacher to have!       
Sarah Marie P. Mamaril, Counselor, Olympian High School
I’ve known Julio Avasan since I was hired here at OHS in 2008. You can ask any OHS Eagle alumni about their most influential math teacher and Mr. Avasan’s name will ALWAYS come up.
He is known for making good connections with his students, which is important for students to feel safe and free to learn. They gain confidence in their math skills because Mr. Avasan walks them through each challenging step with ease.

Give Julio an avenue to teach and he’ll build robots while he’s at it.
Antonieta Salinas, English Curriculum Specialist, Olympian High School
One of the reasons Julio was hired was because he told one of our former principals that he could get through all the kids through his "Math Magic." I used to think that was a big joke, but his pass rate tells the math magic story. The kids say he really gets them to get math. I wish I would've had a math teacher like him, maybe then my perspective of this subject would be different than what it is today.

He’s also currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program and raising two young daughters. Julio is someone who both students and colleagues admire and look up to.