Amber Svoboda wanted to be a teacher since she was little and had a miniature chalkboard.
When she was in elementary, she wanted to teach elementary, but by the time she was in high school she wanted to teach high school. The big question was, which subject?
She chose math, but not because she had been a great math student.
“Actually, I struggled in math,” she says. “I wanted to be the one who knew what it was like to struggle and not just get it. I thought I could teach it a little better because I knew the ins and outs of struggling.”
Svoboda is in her second year of teaching at Moravia. She says she tries to get away from lecturing in favor of having students work on problems and figure out answers through group discussion.
The process is what matters, she says, rather than memorization. While most students will never solve an equation again outside of school, she believes learning to think through problems develops critical thinking skills.
“I questioned this when I was in school: ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ ” she says. “I have gotten to the point now where I say, ‘You are not going to use this exact thing. It is the critical thinking skills that matter.’ ”
Because Moravia is a small district, Svoboda teaches everything from pre-algebra to pre-calculus.
“I enjoy it,” she says. “I feel like if I didn’t switch so many times throughout the day I would get bored. It keeps me on my toes.”
Svoboda is used to the size of the school district. She grew up in Clutier, population 213, and traveled about the distance from Centerville to Moravia to school.
This year Svoboda is moving to a standards-based grading system in which homework plays a lesser role and the grade is largely determined not on effort but on outcome. She says it is an adjustment for the students, but in the end it benefits them.
“I felt good because I gave my pre-calculus kids the option to get a little credit for their homework, but they said, ‘No, we want to do it this way, because we want to prepare for college,’ ” she says.