“I hope that just by showing up and doing my best and demanding the best of my students that I’m making an impact. I hope my students see the beauty and power of math, and that they become better tinkerers and thinkers and people who are willing to take mental risks.” – Shireen D., USA

“I never started out wanting to be a teacher,” says Shireen D. “Now I can’t think of anything else I would rather spend my time doing.” Shireen is now a 16-year veteran of teaching.

In 2005, she started blogging through a pseudonym, “Ms. Cookie,” in order to keep her privacy in case any of her posts were not well received. “Within the last year or so, I’ve only JUST started mentioning to people I know that I blog, and THAT took me six years,” says Shireen. “Blogging and reading blogs have been such great experiences that allow me to get advice and resources and camaraderie and hear other teachers’ ideas, and I’m able to think out loud on what has worked and not worked for me. I’m less in a teaching vacuum because of the generosity and availability of other teachers that are processing their work for the rest of us to share.”

Today, Shireen shares her work, her inspiration, and her favorite technologies with us. Enjoy!

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

I worked in industry for two years and realized that even though I was doing math, it wasn’t satisfying to just do it for the sake of making a profit for someone else. I had started teaching aerobics and liked the challenge of figuring out how to get information across effectively. I realized I could make a difference in the world by teaching at a high school level. Now teaching defines who I am. I remember one professor who asked, “Do you LOVE math? You have to love math in order to truly be successful.” He was talking about research, but I think it applies to anything you do. And yes, I love math, and I love teaching, and for the most part I’m a happy camper doing what I do.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

When I think back on all my teachers, I remember snippets of good and bad, and I try to use that information to make me a better teacher. There were teachers that blatantly did not like me, and I realized it even as a kid. I try not to let that across these days. There were teachers that obviously loved what they were doing, and that came across. There were teachers that were obviously having a good time teaching, and that made a more pleasant environment. All these things and more pop up in my memory bank at various times to guide how I teach.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?

Who can truly tell what has changed as a result of their work? I hope that just by showing up and doing my best and demanding the best of my students that I’m making an impact. I hope my students see the beauty and power of math, and that they become better tinkerers and thinkers and people who are willing to take mental risks.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

This year I am “flipping” my AP Calculus AB class. I’m still working out bugs, but I will definitely do this again next year. Students have a chance to interact with each other in class and attempt challenging problems they may have skimmed over if they were doing things by themselves. Students have videos to refer back to and can watch them at their own pace. I also like the Haiku Learning Management System (LMS) environment. I put my learning calendar there and all the videos I create and links to homework keys. Student can just scan one page and get a good overview of what has happened and what they need to know.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

I love being able to connect with teachers from all over the world via blogging and tweeting and searching for examples of how to present various topics. It’s very useful to be able to see how someone else does something or what challenges they have come across.  I’m usually the only teacher teaching my topic (or one of two or three) at my school. By being able to communicate with people outside of my school, I have access to more ideas and innovations.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Perseverance would top my list. If students learn to persevere and put out their best effort, they can do so much.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

I would grant a safe, secure home life and the knowledge that education is power. If students don’t have to worry about food or safety or money or deportation, they can transfer all that brain energy into learning. Also, if students understand that the more they learn how to learn, then they can do anything.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

I do not know. It seems that there are many forces out there that are trying to stunt public education.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Some big obstacles: concentration on state testing, non-ideal home situations, funding cuts which create larger class sizes.

About Shireen D.

  • Birthplace: California
  • Current residence: Texas
  • Education: PhD in Computational and Applied Math
  • Website I check every day: My blog reader filled with various teacher blogs.
  • Person who inspires me most: People who work to make a difference in the world.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Denver for a CS workshop.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? This past week at many of my students’ antics.
  • Favorite book: Many. I “read” on CDs to and from work. I read novels and mysteries. I read Mary Roach & Sarah Vowell non-fiction.
  • Favorite music: Depends on my mood.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? “Deep Breaths” & “Be Kind.”
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Do Your Best in Everything.

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