Maths Teacher of the Year finds right formula
Portland educator adds magic to lessons by making them fun
Tanya Dawkins aims to have her students conquer their fear of mathematics by ensuring that her lessons are exciting and engaging.
“If it’s not fun to them, then they are not going to be able to see the importance of learning,” she argues.
Dawkins, a teacher at Port Antonio High School in Portland, was on Monday named the Ministry of Education and Youth 2023 Mathematics Teacher of the Year.
A mathematics teacher for 21 years, she said that her strategy of ensuring her classes are fun has aided greatly in her students’ success in the often-dreaded subject area.
By incorporating different games and activities, Dawkins allows her students to explore the concepts being taught while making sure to cater to the different learning styles.
“The truth is that some students, once they see numbers, they tell themselves, ‘I don’t like mathematics’. So getting them to have fun doing it can really motivate them to learn the subject,” she said. “Outside of just doing a competition, they will see that ‘wow, I’m having fun while I’m doing it, so sometimes they even forget that they’re doing maths,” she said.
This kind of dynamic that she brought to her classrooms earned her the admiration of her colleagues, who nominated her as a candidate for Mathematics Teacher-of-the- Year Award.
“The fact that they would have nominated me, it means that I would be making a contribution ‘cause they are the ones who are senior and they are looking on, so they must have seen something happening why they would have selected me. I was motivated,” she said.
A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
Dawkins, who teaches from grades eight to 11, said she hopes the award will serve as an inspiration to her students and will cause them to believe that “the sky is really the limit”.
She added: “I want them to see that if I can do this, they also can achieve anything in life.”
Emphasising her passion for mathematics and children, Dawkins shared that she has no intention of joining the throng of colleagues who have migrated to pursue more lucrative opportunities overseas, stating confidently, “Home is where I want to make that impact”.
But even as she works to give her utmost in the classroom, Dawkins expressed concern about the low passes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations. Only 37 per cent of students received a passing grade for mathematics last year.
And Dawkins wants more insistence on critical thinking skills in the classroom to help remedy this.
“We need to teach them in a way that when they go into the exam, they are able to solve the problems because it’s not just recalling the concept. Because I may know how to find the area of something, but if they should ask me, ‘Give me the area’ or ‘Tell that this place has this area and I’m supposed to find the length’, I might not be able to do it, even though it is something simple that I can really think about,” she contends.
The Windsor Castle, Portland native is also encouraging fellow educators to be innovative in navigating the resource constraints in the classroom.
“I believe even if the resources are not available, probably what we need to do as teachers is to create the resources. The bottom line is we will not find that the school will have the financial aid all the time or the Government will have that to support the school, but we have to take initiative as teachers,” she said.