Meet TI Teacher of the Month: Fatemia Fuson
We’re celebrating teachers, like you, who make a difference in the classroom. This month, join us in getting to know Fatemia Fuson, a graphic designer turned math and computer science teacher.Fast Facts About Fatemia:
- TEACHES WHAT: AP Calculus, College Algebra, Trigonometry, AP Computer Science Principles, and Java Programming I & II
- TEACHES WHERE: Knox Central High School in Kentucky
- TEACHING FOR HOW LONG: 4 years
Fatemia in her own words:
Why did you become a teacher?
I was originally in the field of graphic design, and actually decided pretty late in life that I wanted to be a teacher. However, I’ve always known that I wanted to make a contribution to the world and help make a real difference. I want to show kids that math isn't as scary as people may think it is, especially if you have someone who can really guide you through the subject.
"It’s an amazing feeling when students do understand math, because you know that you were integral to helping them overcome whatever obstacle was in their way."Fatemia Fuson, TI Teacher of the Month
What advice would you give to your first-year teaching self?
Don't try to do it all. For example, I used to stay at school until five or six o’clock working on PowerPoint presentations, because I thought that everything had to be absolutely perfect. Eventually, a woman I worked with explained to me that kids aren’t going to know the difference between a PowerPoint you spent four hours on, or one you spent thirty minutes on. That’s when I understood — you can’t push yourself to do everything. People often go into teaching believing that they’re going to save the world, but that’s just not reality. Instead, I would say start small. Focus on your niche. I’ve realized that picking one area to excel in is much better than being mediocre in a lot of different areas.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love the connections that I get to make with students. There’s nothing like witnessing students light up when they learn something new that they enjoy. Math can be a really hard subject to get kids excited about, since it can be difficult to understand. So it’s an amazing feeling when students do understand math, because you know that you were integral to helping them overcome whatever obstacle was in their way. The same can be said for programming. Students often struggle with programming, because they’ve been taught to expect straight-forward solutions. With programming, it doesn’t work that way. It involves a lot of creative problem solving and hard work, allowing students to learn an important life skill while bringing their own individuality to the table.
What is your primary goal for the students you are teaching?
I want them to leave school with skills that will help them be successful in life – whether in the workforce or just real life. Knowing how to persevere and be confident in overcoming challenges is important, especially for kids in my area. We're in rural Appalachia, where the poverty level is greater than 70 percent free and reduced lunch. As I’m teaching these students skills like computer science, my hope is that even if they don't leave the area, it's something they can use to work remotely. My hope is this opens up new avenues for my students because I think that they need to see what success can look like for them.
How do you help your students learn difficult concepts?
It’s important for me to find new ways to break down concepts. When you first start teaching, it's hard to know exactly what kids are going to be good at. You need to have a willingness to try anything in your classroom, because you never know who it might work for. I like to be active on searching for new strategies by using Pinterest, searching the Internet, going to more conferences and looking at what others are doing in the classroom. I try to soak in every idea that comes my way!
What are some fun or unique ways you help your students learn?
I've always loved using technology in the classroom, because teaching is so much more than lecturing in front of a room. It’s different than when I was in high school, where you would simply write down your notes, do your homework, and go take a test. Today, you have to be inventive in the classroom in order to keep students engaged. The popularity of cellphones and videogames makes it so kids’ attention spans are smaller than they used to be, but integrating technology helps me effectively solve this problem. Technology such as the TI-Innovator Hub not only gives my students tangible evidence of what they’re working on, but makes the classroom more fun for them as well.