1. You majored in engineering and applied sciences at California Institute of Technology and then went on to get an MA in mathematics education from the Columbia Teachers College. When and why did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?
When I went to college, I chose a school where nearly everybody wanted to go on to do scientific research or work in “cool” mathematical money-making fields like finance, computer engineering, or computer graphics. I spent the first two and a half years of college exploring my own options in those areas, doing two years of research in the summers, and talking about corporate life (especially computer programmer life) with recently graduated friends, and I realized about halfway through my junior year that none of those lifestyles were for me. I had a bit of a crisis-of-future, skipped three weeks of classes to mope about it, and finally emerged with the idea that I would teach. It was hard for me because, despite the fact that I now know it to be one of the most challenging and rewarding careers in the world, at the time I didn’t think it seemed cool. But I am so much happier doing this than I would have been working in finance, business, or academia.
2. Look into the future. What math, science, or engineering courses do you imagine students will be taking in 20 years’ time that don’t exist now?
Introduction to Quantum Computing. A quantum computer is a computer that takes advantage of the super weird behavior of very tiny particles; they can actually be in multiple states at the same time. This will theoretically allow an advanced quantum computer to do trillions of calculations simultaneously rather than one at a time and; one major result is that some problems that are very very hard or even impossible now because they take too long, (like cracking very advanced encryption) will be much easier. The entire mathematics of computer science will have to change to allow for these computers.
3. If you won an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, what store would you choose? Why?
Probably the Apple Store because I’d buy it all and then resell it. I’d then spend the money to travel. My son would rather I choose a Lego store though.
4. How many times have you had stitches, and what were the circumstances?
I’ve had stitches a few times, including one time when I broke my arm falling off a bike and another when I cut my hand using the wrong tool for the job, but my most interesting stitches are definitely the ones I got in grade 1. One night when I was sick, I woke up with the most horrendous stomach pain. I crawled into my parents' room, crying, and they could immediately tell it was a big deal and rushed me to the hospital. X-rays showed an intestinal blockage, but it was unclear what was happening, so I was rushed into middle-of-the-night exploratory surgery. This eventually revealed a small chicken bone that had rotated exactly the wrong way and got stuck. I have a huge scar from this surgery, much bigger than a modern appendicitis scar.
5. You’ve lived much of your adult life in both Nashville, Tennessee and New York City. After a semester in São Paulo, what do all three cities have in common, if anything?
Normally I feel like we’re drawn to look for the differences in things, not the similarities. I haven’t spent enough time in São Paulo yet to feel like I know it nearly as well as the other two cities, but to me what makes a city exciting (from a small city like Nashville to a giant one like São Paulo) is the sense that you are often a bit anonymous, but also surrounded by life.
6. Are you superstitious? Give an example.
Not really. I’m overly logical, if anything, which makes superstition hard.
7. What’s your least favorite thing to do?
Grade papers, especially reassessments, especially when they aren’t going well.
8. If you had the opportunity to travel into space, would you go? Why or why not?
Oh, geez. My instinct is to say yes, but when it came down to it, I don’t think I’d be willing to go through the months of physical training that would be necessary to handle it. The fact is that space is cool, but it’s also very scary. If I could just pop up there, see the earth from space, and then pop right down though, I’d do it for sure.
9. What’s one thing you know for sure?
I am so bad at this kind of question, because I’m torn between cheesy-but-sincere platitudes like “Time spent working on happiness is never wasted time,” secret recommendations like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the fabric of television and is a must-watch,” and snarky nerdy answers like “2 + 2 = 4.” So let’s just say all three of those things and call it a day.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
The kids, and the administrative and faculty culture of flexibility. My old school was wonderful, but occasionally suffered under a lack of willingness to try new things. I love that Graded is open to new ideas.