The Gift of the Math GuyMichael M. Guevara
Before transitioning away from life as a public school educator, I worked as the academic trainer for English and social studies in a large, urban high school in San Antonio. I partnered with English and social studies teachers on strengthening the literacy skills of their students.
The only drawback of the job—I shared an office suite with the math guy. Although the math guy turned out to be a woman named Daisy.
For most of my professional life, I have held to the belief that math instruction should cease to exist after second grade. I am convinced that math was created in the bowels of hell and that math people smell funny.
To make matters even more hellish, my suitemate would come into my office and draw equations and leave math puns on my dry erase board. And worst of all, other math teachers would come into our office to eat lunch. The place reeked of Pythagoras and parallelograms.
But a couple of things saved this situation: my charming wit, my bubbly personality, and the gift of reading.
Conversations for English teachers with other adults eventually land on the topic of the books the non-English teacher in the conversation hated having to read in school. Daisy, my math person suitemate, was no exception to the phenomenom.
To frown on a practice favored by math teachers, I’m not going to show my work and skip to close to the end. Daisy and I bonded over books when I introduced her to the library I brought from my classroom to my office and the concept that you should read what you like and that you can stop reading a book if you don’t like it.
By December, the math person in my office had turned herself into a reader and had multiplied the number of books she read. She asked for recommendations, and I obliged. Eventually, I was almost able to see the math teachers eating lunch in our suite as real people—almost.
When I left the position at the end of the school year, I wanted my classroom library I had culled through grants and gravitas to go to someone who believed in the gift of reading as much as I did.
The solution to the problem was just outside my office door. Daisy decided she would be returning to the classroom to teach algebra again and would love to have a classroom library in her math class. This has been my goal, belief, mantra, wish, effort for quite some time—that every student in every classroom, regardless of subject or content area, deserves a classroom library.
As more of a gift than she probably realizes, Daisy recently sent me a picture of the bookshelf she was able to get in her classroom to display the books I had given her. But what I actually loved even more was how she told me that before getting the book shelf, her math students were digging through boxes to get books to read.
I may not be a classroom teacher anymore, but, in a way, I’m still giving students the gift of reading.
And if I could have a Christmas wish, it would be a classroom library in every classroom—regardless of subject or content area.
Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.