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University of Delaware senior Daniel Levinson knows that not every high school student he’s teaching shares his love of math. He even acknowledges that some of them may never use algebra in their adult lives.
But, as a student teacher this semester at Conrad Schools of Science near Newport, Delaware, he’s learning how to motivate all students, not just those who are planning careers in STEM fields.
“I want them to see that the problem-solving skills and rational thinking that you use in math is something they will use in the future,” he said. “Math teaches you to be a problem-solver, and they’ll need to solve problems for the rest of their lives.”
Levinson, who is graduating this spring with a degree in mathematics education, has thought about a teaching career since he was in third grade. In high school in his hometown of East Windsor, New Jersey, he began zeroing in on a goal of teaching math at the secondary school level.
His dedication and passion for the career was recently recognized by the national Knowles Teacher Initiative, which named Levinson a 2019 Knowles Teaching Fellow. The fellowship is highly competitive, with only about 35 awarded each year to early-career math or science teachers, and recognizes those selected for their commitment and their leadership potential.
The fellowship provides five years of financial support, which can cover such costs as classroom materials and continuing education, and professional development through a variety of workshops, mentoring and coaching opportunities and a network of current and former Knowles Fellows.
The fellowship program was created, according to the Knowles Teacher Initiative, in recognition of the fact that “learning to teach well requires time, sustained effort and ongoing support and development throughout a teacher’s career.”
Levinson hopes to make use of the fellowship to continue to improve his teaching and to earn a master’s degree.
He first learned about the program from Michelle Cirillo, associate professor of mathematical sciences, who encouraged him to undertake the lengthy application and selection process.
After submitting personal essays and letters of recommendation, Levinson took part in an in-depth phone interview and then a weekend of intensive activities, during which he and some 66 other finalists were observed as they engaged in discussion groups and problem-solving sessions.
“I thought I did really well,” he said of the final step in the process. “But then, I thought all 66 of us did really well, so I didn’t take anything for granted.”
Although Levinson is still completing his full-time student teaching this semester, he already has quite a bit of experience over the past several years. In addition to field placements through UD, he’s worked as a tutor at a private math learning center and as a substitute classroom teacher.
He’s pursuing teaching jobs for next fall in Delaware and other parts of the country.
The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, established in 1999, aims to increase the number of high-quality high school science and mathematics teachers in order to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the United States.
The Teaching Fellows Program, the foundation’s signature program, targets young teachers and empowers them to become leaders in strengthening the teaching profession.
The program also seeks to address the national problem of teachers who leave the profession before they develop expertise, and the gap in which children of color and children living in poverty are disproportionately taught by the least experienced teachers.
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