In a recent interview, our Teacher Community Program Manager, Aviv, spoke to Tambra Kascic, an #alwaysgrowing educator with a special commitment to figuring out how kids learn and sharing her expertise in the #TeachWithKhan Facebook and Twitter communities.
Aviv at Khan Academy: Can you describe your journey to becoming a teacher?
Tambra: Before I started teaching, I aspired to work in engineering technologies, and wound up working for a military-based supplier company. This is where I worked on various military equipment during Desert Storm and I got the opportunity to inspect the Atlantis space shuttle windows! I decided to re-attend college at age 48 to complete a degree in secondary education mathematics because I got tired of hearing teens say, “I hate math.” This is where I learned about Khan Academy from a grad student who was teaching a biology lab I was enrolled in.
Aviv at Khan Academy: That’s an incredible journey! How did you address the I-hate-math attitude in your early years of teaching?
Tambra: I first taught in Roane County, a rural farm community with a high need for math teachers and then at South Charleston High School, a school with a diverse population of under-resourced students. I taught classes from conceptual math to AP Calculus and implanted problem/project-based learning in all of my classes, much to the dismay of my fellow teachers. I asked to have the desks in rows and columns removed and found round tables so my students could work together and collaborate. Khan Academy became a tool for my students to use when questioning the process or their answers when they worked to complete problems in the classroom.
Aviv at Khan Academy: Tell me more about how personalized learning fits into your teaching.
Tambra: I decided to work towards my master’s degree in special education to better understand the teaching process for students with special needs. I wanted to use those skills for students who fell through the cracks in the general education classrooms. After receiving my masters, I accepted a position at the same high school to create an engineering program as well as teach the college dual credit classes and AP Calculus. The engineering project was to increase our students in STEM-related courses and careers and to encourage female students to continue in STEM courses. Our current level of 18% female students enrolled in engineering-type courses is well below the national average, and it is my hope to continue to increase this percentage each year. We are on the right track, and have increased our enrollment by almost 400%, have a 3D printing lab, and opened our first chapter of Skills USA for our school!
Aviv at Khan Academy: What are your plans for continuing to personalize learning for all students in the future?
Tambra: While my master’s degree addressed many of the questions I had regarding cognitive learning and how it relates to curriculum, I decided to pursue my doctorate in philosophy with a focus on cognition and curriculum psychology in order to design and implement evidence-based interventions to better serve struggling students.
It is my goal to get to the heart of I-hate-math statements and encourage my district to use strategies that change the mindset of students, so they will be more motivated to continue pathways that lead to STEM careers.
I am currently working on a research topic relating to psychology, math and learning struggles of students in general education. Through this process, I have continued to use Khan Academy, going as far as becoming an Ambassador in order to train and encourage other teachers to use this amazing tool.
Aviv at Khan Academy: Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!
Tambra: Thank you for the opportunity!