The right formula

 

MEBANE — Deanna Beckham has the confidence of a seasoned teacher.

 

This is her fourth year teaching math at Eastern Alamance High School, but her 21st year in the Alamance-Burlington School System.

 

A native of Alamance County, a graduate of Elon College and, later, Elon University, she says her love of education began with her father, who taught in and retired from the Burlington City Schools.

 

“I grew up with a dad who would bring work home. I would love to try and help him grade papers when I was younger. In the olden days, you had to calculate grades by hand, so I was always like, ‘Can I help? Please let me help.’ I enjoyed it,” Beckham said.

 

She taught middle school social studies before transitioning into math, which she’s stuck with for the last 15 years because it felt right. However, she knows the subject doesn’t come easily for a lot of students, which is why she’s had to come up with a way to help them.

 

“You’ve got to find some way to help them memorize the rules and the formulas that they’re going to use. … I’ve found out that sometimes making little corny representations or songs or raps, it makes it stick in their brain a little bit more,” she said. “And for some kids, they just need someone to sit down with them and help them work through it, individually.”

 

Her experiments in singing and rapping to help kids learn earned her the 2016 Outstanding Secondary School Mathematics Teacher title from the N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The recognition is appreciated, but Beckham says there are many teachers she’s been inspired by who deserve praise as well.

 

“I was shocked,” she said. “There are a lot of great teachers, and that’s the thing: How do you decide on one person? … It’s sweet, and it’s truly an honor because I’ve been doing this a long time, it feels like, I just know there are a lot of good people out there that don’t always get recognized,” she said.

 

She says the real rewards, for her, are seeing how she’s affected students.

 

“When kids come back and they actually thank you for what you’ve done. You may not have been their favorite, and they may have been with you for the whole year, and you thought, ‘Gosh, we do not get along. We do not have a great relationship,’ but for them to actually come back and say ‘Thank you,’ that’s rewarding,” she said.

 

There are also challenges, of course, especially when Beckham is faced with a student who actively hates math.

 

“The most challenging part is to get kids to somewhat enjoy or like math that really do hate it,” she laughed. “My biggest thing is I try to tell them that we all have things that we’re good at. We need to know our strengths, but we also need to know our weaknesses, and even if something’s a weakness, we need to find some way to better it.”

 

She’s harvested a certain amount of wisdom in her years with the school system. She says her biggest piece of advice for new teachers is to take it day by day and learn as you go.

 

“Don’t get overwhelmed by the small stuff. … Everything happens in time. Nothing has to be instantaneous. Some people walk into the classroom, and they’re great, and it happens, and some people just need time to better themselves, so it’s not going to happen overnight. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in the beginning,” she said.

 

Teachers should take time to find a system, Beckham said. It’s a process of trial and error for everyone, and they should “always take time to reflect, to ask ‘Was that good?’ and ‘Can I make it better?’” regardless of how long they’ve been teaching.

 

It’s that self-reflection that has earned her recognition, and will allow her to grow and continue to find new methods throughout the rest of her career.

 

 

By: Jessica Williams / Times-News

Source: thetimesnews.com