A Brief Autobiographical Sketch

Jenny Johnson

I once told my high school calculus teacher that I wanted to be an English teacher. Surprised, he responded, "Jenny, you know your calling in life is math." A few semesters later, I informed him of my decision to study math education and, not surprised, he said, "I always knew you'd change your mind." I have since rarely missed an opportunity to teach math. While working as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, I decided to spend a semester abroad in the Philippines. The program was organized through the health department and all of the other students were public health majors, but I was told there would be some flexibility as to how I served. While the other students in the program taught lessons on basic hygiene and disease prevention, I organized and taught lessons on basic arithmetic and problem-solving skills. Practicing multiplication facts in poor squatter villages in Manila with 30 to 40 young Filipinos was my first exposure to formal math teaching, and I was hooked. I student taught in an inner city middle school in Houston and then took a two year break from school to serve a mission in Chile for my church.

When I returned, I quickly found a job at a lock-down residential boys high school in Provo, Utah as the sole math teacher. The situation was ideal; my classes were from 5 to 10 kids and the behavior system was organized and strict. I loved teaching in my own classroom and spending all day discussing algebra and geometry. After a few years, I decided I needed more training to be a truly effective teacher. Now I am studying for a master's degree in math education at the University of Georgia in order to improve my skills in the classroom and learn ways to make my instruction more student-centered.