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Virginia Journal of Education

Ten Minutes With…

Patsy Dickerson

8th grade math teacher at Christiansburg Middle School
School system: Montgomery County
Years worked in education: 25th year

What is a typical school day like for you?
I arrive at school each morning about 6:45 to prepare myself and my room, and set up my smart board with objectives, activities and instruction to be used that day. I also have time to make copies of any necessary activities for the day. At 7:45 the day begins with a 90-minute class in math 8. After this I have my planning time for the day where I usually am collaborating with the other eighth grade math teacher and/or my student teacher – discussing activities, pacing, topics that need to be re-addressed, and creating assessments. After my next math 8 class, it’s lunch time and then two classes of algebra. At the end of the day for the students, I start grading papers, helping students and preparing for the next day.

What do you like about your job?
I am in a great situation at CMS to collaborate with three very competent, knowledgeable, experienced math teachers. Working with these three ladies makes my day much brighter. I am also lucky to have a great team of teachers to work with who are level-headed, helpful and supportive in so many ways. Our administration is very supportive of our instructional time and in our professional development.

I love bringing in other disciplines into the math class – especially art. Just to mention a few of our projects: we have colored clowns for probability and bar graphs; made sales ads to calculate the sales price; created a tangram animal zoo to compare the area of the pieces; made a “12 Day of Christ-math” train; and counted the number of students who can pass through a hula hoop in 1 minute and made a scatter plot. I try to engage students in everyday activities where the math that we are learning can be applied. One of my warm-up problems was, what was the percent of points that Green Bay scored in the Super Bowl? Or what percent of a 180-pound buck is harvested as meat if 74 pounds of meat are put in the freezer?

What is hard about your job?
I get tired! It’s very demanding to always be prepared, always be motivating and always be pleasant – even when you are in “discipline mode”--and to be caught up with grading and keeping my grade book up to date. It seems like I’ll never catch up because there is always something else to do.

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job?
I was fortunate to have my mother, Pat Simmons (Botetourt County, retired) as my eighth grade math teacher and I have been able to be all four of my children’s eighth grade math teacher. I hope I inspired them as much as my mother has inspired me.

The students always have a different perspective on the lesson than I do. It constantly amazes me when they see something that hadn’t occurred to me. We can all learn from each other.

How has being an Association member been helpful to you?
I have always believed that to be a member of a profession that you enjoy and value, you should belong to the organization that supports your vocation. It’s also nice to have a support network available if needed. Our Uniserv director, Marshall Leitch, always has the time and energy to be supportive and helpful and to be an advisor and friend if needed.


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