What were you doing prior to applying to the GSE?
I taught various ranges of mathematics courses at a high school in Ventura, CA for 11 years. During this time, I also coached speech and debate with a colleague. Additionally, I worked in different capacities for AVID, a program geared toward students who may be the first to go to college in their family.
What drew you to the field of education?
I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in elementary school, but I was never sure what subject. I have always been intrigued with how some students seem to “get” something right away while others take more time. I love working with others to develop and shape ideas, especially within mathematics. So, I went on the path to become a mathematics teacher.
After teaching for more than a decade, why pursue a PhD?
As I taught, I saw some students disengaged or marginalized by certain barriers around the way mathematics was being taught. I feel there is still a lot of work to be done to work towards equitable access to subjects like mathematics, which is a subject that offers unparalleled advantages to higher education and social mobility. So I decided to continue my education with a somewhat similar but newer intrigue of how we can help all students “get” mathematics.
How would you describe your classmates?
My doctoral program is split into specific areas of study that can shape so many facets of education —from an individual in a classroom to federal policy. Everyone has a different background related to education, ranging from neuroscience to psychology to sociology to pedagogy. We value the unique perspectives of so many and try to challenge each other from these various perspectives. I was unprepared for the variety of paths that bring people into the field of education. My classmates have valuable ideas and ask questions that are difficult to answer. They have supported me in my transition from being a teacher to being a student again.
What do you do to relax outside of school?
I am a huge fan of trying new beers and foods around the area. I really like to go for jogs around campus because there is so much to explore. Most of all, I love to go to any music events. I am usually up for anything, given excellent company!
What are your career plans?
I plan to work at a university’s teacher education program in order to train pre-service teachers who are earning their teaching credential. I would also like to remain connected to the schools to work collaboratively with in-service teachers toward finding innovative ways to connect students to mathematics.
Any advice for prospective students on the application process?
Do not sell yourself short. The first time I applied, I did not get accepted. I reassessed my application and realized that I was narrating my accomplishments rather than explaining how I achieved my goals and how certain experiences shaped my views over time. Most importantly, just apply. I was intimidated to apply to Stanford, at first. The only way I was able to be where I am now was by putting myself out there and be willing to be rejected, knowing it is the only way of being accepted.
Any tips for incoming students to help them get the most from their time at Stanford?
Explore courses outside your intended field of study in order to understand a wider range of perspectives. There are so many opportunities to take a class that is similar in objectives but taught in a different school. Also, try to connect with different organizations on campus because you get to meet so many interesting people at socials from different schools. The networks you can make outside of your school help widen your understanding of how to talk to any group about your research.
Interview conducted August 2015