Creativity Multiplied — A Teacher on Taking Math Beyond the Classroom

I love teaching — it’s my passion.  Growing up, I never planned on becoming a teacher, but after accepting an opportunity to spend one year in the classroom after finishing school (many years ago), I was hooked!  I feel fortunate to have found my way to Shipley, where I can share my love of learning math with students every day.

As I start my fifth year teaching math in the Shipley Upper School, I find myself reflecting on the time I’ve spent in this community.   I’ve spent many years working to help students develop their quantitative skills and become confident and engaged problem solvers.  Remember word problems?  Most adults react with a groan when I ask this question.  My goal is for students to solve them correctly, of course, but I also want students to relish in solving them.

With an emphasis on developing creativity, confidence, and deeply rooted learning, Shipley’s overarching philosophy directly supports my goals.  To solve problems successfully, students must think creatively (yes — even in math!) as they explore many different potential paths to a successful solution.  Through regular practice, they gain a confidence in their own abilities that expands from math into the study of science and beyond.  Some of my best teaching moments are when students confide, “Now I actually enjoy solving word problems!”

The people at Shipley — both students and colleagues — make up an incredible learning community.  I work with smart, funny, creative colleagues who are always willing to collaborate.  I learn so much from them, not only formally at organized professional development events, but also informally around the copier or at the lunch table.  Shipley’s size is perfect — large enough that I have a diverse group of math colleagues to brainstorm ideas, and small enough that I can collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines or divisions.

My students form an amazing group of imaginative, thoughtful, and invested learners.  The culture here is collaborative and welcoming; students are eager to help each other learn. Whether students are Shipley “lifers” or are new to the community, all are welcomed.  Even when students enroll in the middle of the year, they quickly find their place in the classroom as well as on the playing fields or the stage.

I appreciate that my interactions with students at Shipley extend outside just academics.  Over the past four years, I’ve been able to advise a group of students and share their experiences from the day they took their first tentative steps into the Upper School as 9th graders through their graduation last June (a bittersweet moment for me).  A particular joy in working with adolescents is watching them grow as they become young adults.  I’m proud of their hard work and their many accomplishments at Shipley.

As a teacher, I believe my job goes beyond just teaching students to become capable quantitative thinkers; it also includes helping them become active and independent learners.   Shipley’s mission, like that of many schools, speaks to educational excellence and love of learning.  But Shipley also strives to help students develop a desire for compassionate participation in the world.  This not only aids Shipley students’ overall development as people, but also helps them develop their critical thinking skills, extending their problem-solving skills from the classroom into real world situations.

All of this adds up to why I love being part of the Shipley community.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

Learn more about Academics at Shipley.

About the Author

Lisa Chirlian

Lisa Chirlian teaches Math in Shipley's Upper School.