Emily Guarnieri – Middle school math. Those three words make most adults squirm. Either they loved it or hated it. How do you help students love it, and feel good about math?
Kevin Hansen – I have always loved math since an early age. I believe I try to help students to feel good about math by allowing them to enjoy the class. We do many different activities and projects that allow the students to work together and have fun. One of the favorite projects the students have done is create carnival games during our probability unit where they then set up the games in the gym for a day and the entire school comes to play the various games the students have created.
I also have the benefit of having the students for three years in a row. Seeing the students grow in their mathematical knowledge over the three years is a very rewarding experience. When parents and students tell me at graduation that they did not like math at the beginning of sixth grade, but then love it at the end of eighth grade, it makes me feel good that I succeeded in growing their knowledge and enthusiasm for math.
EG – Math is analytical. It’s black and white. How is teaching math in a Catholic school different from any other school?
Kevin Hansen – Teaching in a Catholic school allows you to teach how you feel is best for the students you have at the time. While I teach the same state standards as every other school, I have the freedom to adapt my lessons, sequencing, and pacing to best meet the needs of my students. It also is a wonderful atmosphere and environment when you as the teacher and the students can relate a lesson or topic to your faith and to God. Having a school built on catholic identity and prayer helps to improve all aspects of the school community including in the classroom.
EG – You probably have friends from college who teach math at public schools, private schools, and other Catholic schools. It’s been a difficult time for everyone over the last couple years. How does your experience teaching at a Catholic school differ from other teachers.
Kevin Hansen – There is a great amount of support that you receive teaching in a Catholic school from the school community, your colleagues, and administration including my principal, Mrs. Ayers. She has been very supportive of myself and the school, especially throughout the pandemic. When other schools were struggling with how to still meet the needs of the students and not lose time during the pandemic, we were able to start full remote instruction on day one of the pandemic. Our students had classes live each day beginning with morning prayers and ending at 2:30 and followed their regular schedule. Besides the benefits on the students academics, this provided an outlet for the students to still see and communicate with each other each day when their world was changing in such a way that no one had seen before. Being able to have live online classes provided a great social and emotional benefit for our students during this time. No one I know was able to have live classes each day with their students besides those of us in Catholic school.
EG – Have you always been interested in teaching math? What led you to become a math teacher?
Kevin Hansen – Yes, I have always had a passion for math. My grandfather was a math teacher and I would always hear him telling stories of being in the classroom and his love for the profession was evident. I wanted to do something that would make me as happy as my grandfather and I have loved my 11 years in Catholic education.
EG – What is your role in your school? I know you do much more than teach math.
Kevin Hansen – I try to help out wherever I can to make a positive impact on the school community. Some of the roles I have in the school are testing coordinator, Athletic Director as I oversee our school’s athletic program, and I also help to organize our school lunch and snack program and help with the technology setup and implementation in our building. I also try to help new teachers in the building plan and implement their math lessons. Math is often a fear of new teachers, so I try to make them comfortable with the curriculum and material.
EG – We’d like to learn more about your interests outside of school. I understand you are involved in your parish. How do you serve your parish? What are some of your other interests?
Kevin Hansen – I attend St. Martin of Tours Parish which is actually where I went to elementary school as well. I have been a volunteer religious education teacher there for the past fifteen years. I also am a Eucharistic Minister and help out at the First Communions, Reconciliations, and Confirmations at St. Martin’s.
EG – Congratulations on winning the Peggy Ranieri Teacher of the Year Award. What does this award mean for you? Were you surprised when you learned about it?
Kevin Hansen – Thank you very much. It was such an honor to receive this award. As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather was my inspiration to become a math teacher and he won a teacher of the year award during his career so to be able to win an award similar to my grandfather’s makes this mean so much to me. It is very nice to be recognized by the Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation and the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Mrs. Ayers planned how I found out I would be receiving the Peg Ranieri Teacher of the Year Award and it was such a wonderful surprise. After lunch I was brought out to the yard where the entire school was outside cheering with balloons, posters, signs and cards for me. It was then where Peggy Ranieri-York made the announcement that I would be receiving the award named after her mother. It truly was an honor and is a day that I will never forget.
EG – What is your favorite math concept to teach? Why do you like this so much?
Kevin Hansen – I love to teach the 7th grade probability as it is a very hands- on unit. The students get to use cards, dice, and many other manipulatives to see how probability works including the difference between experimental and theoretical probability. There is a great video I show at the start of the unit that details how carnival games work. This makes the students second guess how they spend their money at carnivals and is a great unit where students can apply math to their everyday life.
EG – Tell us about some of your other roles in the education world, both inside and outside of the Diocese. I know you are involved in the Curriculum Lead program and have presented at conferences like ASSET. Tell us about both of those. Why do you like to help other teachers?
Kevin Hansen – I have been a part of the Curriculum Lead program that the Diocese initiated since its inception. It is a wonderful program where teachers come together from across Long Island to plan and discuss ways to provide a rigorous and top notch education for the Catholic school students on Long Island. This truly was a positive that came out of the pandemic as it was initially formed to help teachers during the Spring of 2020 provide online instruction. I have been the 8th Grade Math Curriculum Lead teacher since that time and I help run a Google Classroom where I upload all of my lessons, tests, projects, and materials so that teachers throughout the Diocese have access to use in their classrooms. I also facilitate virtual meetings with the other math teachers throughout the Diocese where we meet to discuss curriculum but more importantly where we can support each other and offer guidance to both new and experienced teachers alike. I also am the Curriculum Lead Coach for grades five through eight and some specialty area subjects. As a Coach, I provide support and feedback to other lead teachers and help them with whatever they need.
Outside the Dioceses, I have presented at various conferences including the ASSET Conference. The ASSET Conference is a wonderful experience where educators from across Long Island gather together to find new ways to use technology in the classroom. I have presented at many of these conferences over the years on how to incorporate technology into a mathematics classroom to help increase student engagement and promote mathematical growth and development.
EG – What else are you involved in?
Kevin Hansen – I am currently the Interim Vice President for the Catholic Middle School Athletic Association and I have also worked in Item Writing Committees for NYS in helping to design state tests.
I also tutor various high school and college students in math classes which helps me stay on top of the rigor the high schools and colleges are providing their students which allows me to better prepare my students for the classes they will face in the future.
EG – What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in teaching math?
Kevin Hansen – I would first tell someone pursuing a career in teaching math to try and get in front of students as soon as you can. I began teaching religious education at eighteen years old so that I could volunteer in my parish but also gain experience teaching children. Next, you have to love math yourself so that you can pass on your love of math to your students. Teaching, especially in a Catholic school, is a very rewarding profession. I never feel like I am working when I enter the building each day as I love the school community I am a part of and working with my students each day.