Education Technology

Meet TI Teacher of the Month: Tim Collier

Posted 02/25/2019 by Ellen Fishpaw

Meet TI Teacher of the Month: Tim Collier

We're celebrating teachers, like you, who make a difference in the classroom. This month, join us in getting to know Tim Collier, who likes to combine math and play to bring complex concepts to life for his students.

Fast facts about Tim:

  • TEACHES WHAT: precalculus, calculus and algebra III
  • TEACHES WHERE: McAlester High School in McAlester, Oklahoma

Tim in his own words:

Why did you become a teacher?
The short answer is that teachers are the people in my life who have made the biggest impact on me. They’re the ones who ultimately made me realize that I’d like to give back and teach others, just like they did for me. Teaching is my calling, and I wouldn’t feel fulfilled doing anything else.

"Focusing on building relationships with students is much more important than teaching rigorous math lessons."

Tim Collier, TI Teacher of the Month

What advice would you give to your first-year teaching self?

Calm down, don't take yourself too seriously, and most importantly, remember that you’re teaching students — not math. By this, I mean that focusing on building relationships with students is much more important than teaching rigorous math lessons. It doesn’t matter how robust your math lesson is if it’s at the expense of forming real relationships with your students. When I realized that teaching didn’t have to mean being impersonal, I became a much more effective teacher. It’s easy to help a student learn once you understand who they are as a person and what they know.

What do you love most about teaching?

It's fun to get a class engaged in an activity that they find both enjoyable and intriguing. There's a fine line between learning mathematics and play, and I like to ride that line. Sure, sometimes it’s important for students to sit down and memorize multiplication tables. However, in my opinion, the best days are those where you can execute a rich math task that allows students to have a good time. It’s that connection between the student, the teacher and the curriculum that can be so exciting.

What subjects have you enjoyed most, and why?

I’ve always thought of geometry as an engaging and interesting subject. It’s like always working out different puzzles. As a young teacher, I was so excited to teach geometry but was crestfallen to find out that other people didn’t think it was as interesting as I did. That being said, my favorite subject to teach is precalculus. I love teaching it for a lot of reasons, but mainly because there are a lot of opportunities to do engaging activities with students.

What do you like about the TI technology you teach with?

The TI-Innovator™ Hub and TI-Innovator™ Rover are so novel to students; they really gravitate toward them. It seems that almost every kid is willing to spend a significant amount of time trying to get their code to work. They’ve been eager to learn whatever mathematics they need in order to understand how to make the technology work — no matter how complex it may be. I can also use the Rovers in my precalculus class, particularly when students are learning about radian measures. On a subject that can often be relatively dry, the Rover lets them program in radians while they draw their own figures. This gives them a ton of practice comparing radians and degrees, all while they believe that they’re just playing!

How do you help your students learn difficult concepts?

I approach it with a “try something different” attitude. My system is to have students talk to me about what they’re struggling with, enough for me to gain a full understanding of what’s going on. Then, I try switching to a different mode of teaching — whether that’s by graphing, drawing a picture or writing out the equation, I do whatever is necessary in order to help them understand. I believe that through the process of explaining their current understanding of the problem, they gain a better insight into how to actually complete it. To sum it up, I try to routinely practice one key component with my students: patience.