Unis Boye-Weah, a middle school math teacher for 279Online, was once a student at Osseo Area Schools. She reflects on her experience as a student and seeks to encourage her students to be authentic learners.
Students often talk about how difficult math is to learn, but with Boye-Weah’s open approach, students take risks and tackle challenging subjects.
“Math is a subject I struggled in, and it took a lot of work. I would bring math home to my mom, and she told me ‘Don’t bring math home. Go ask your teacher.’ I had great teachers growing up, and regardless of my 10,000 questions, they were there,” said Boye-Weah.
It was this appreciation that made her want to provide an open approach to education for her students. Boye-Weah builds mutual respect and engagement with her students, which is a challenge when she sees more than 100 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students each day.
This is the first time she has taught middle school, and her focus on building relationships has helped her to connect with students. She knows from experience how important it is to have someone who is willing to help.
“Being able to have someone you can relate to helps to shatter fears and eases you through and helps to make it better,” Boye-Weah continued.
Erica Pierce, a sixth grade math and technology education teacher at Osseo Middle School, began teaching after having a career outside of education. She developed her passion for teaching after volunteering in her children’s classrooms as they were growing up. Now, after over 15 years as a teacher in the district, Pierce works to help her students develop a passion for learning in new ways.
“My favorite part of being a teacher is the constant learning, both by myself and by the students. It is fun to see the students learning and getting excited by it, especially in math and science,” Pierce said. “I am always evolving, changing and improving my practices to make it better.”
Over her years as a teacher, Pierce has seen how much education has been changing, and how teaching is becoming more what it should be. She has noticed an emphasis on teaching students to think scientifically and analyze things themselves, and then how to express what they know, as opposed to focusing on having them memorize facts and equations. This has been new not only for students, but for teachers as well. Besides providing her students with the tools they need to succeed academically, Pierce knows how important it is to connect with them personally as well.
“It is important to me to try and make sure I make connections with all of my students, which is a challenge because I have so many of them. It is important to keep up and make sure I connect with kids, so I can help them the best I can and they feel like they are a part of our school.” Pierce said.
Pierce enjoys working with middle school students, because it is an age where kids are just beginning to come into their own and ask a lot of questions. They are trying to find their place in the world, which is a time when it is very important that they have the support of their teachers. Pierce feels that what she does wouldn’t be possible without the amazing people she works with, all collaborating and coming together to find solutions to problems and help out their students in any way they can.
Cody Houdek is a ninth grade English and mythology teacher at Maple Grove Senior High School (MGSH). He always looks beyond just teaching content, working on connecting with students and making sure he has relationships with other adults in the building, forming a coherent whole to support students and make education work.
Houdek joined Osseo Area Schools in the 2019-20 school year, right before the pandemic. He has been an English teacher at MGSH for the past two years, working primarily with freshmen and sophomores. Houdek got into teaching due to a lifelong passion for learning, hoping to foster that in his students.
“I have always loved learning and loved being a student. I have always been really into writing and I liked breaking things down into understandable chunks,” Houdek said. “Teaching seemed like the perfect, natural fit. At the end of the day, I knew this was what I needed to do.”
Houdek enjoys working with freshmen because it is a time that they are just starting to get involved with life and turn into who they are actually going to be. He has found that students at this age are just beginning to think critically about the world, and are excited about what is being taught to them. Houdek works to take a topic and condense it, presenting it to students in a way that they are going to understand, want to connect with and relate to in their own lives.
“It is really an experimentation to see what does and does not work in education. I like the idea of shaking things up when I can,” Houdek said.
Tasha Moskowitz, a teacher at the Osseo Area Learning Center (OALC), is an advocate for students wherever they are in their educational journeys. She started her 18 year career at Osseo Area Schools at North View Middle School. She then spent three years at Park Center Senior High, and now she is at the OALC.
“I have had the amazing experience of having a lot of North View students at Park Center, and now I’ve had some of them here. It has been so fun seeing them on their paths and grow up,” Moskowitz shared.
She loves getting to see her students grow and says the important milestones in education are often small. Since the units at the OALC are broken down into three week sessions, she is able to see her students accomplish little victories throughout their educational experience. Once a student completes their units, they are able to graduate.
“At the OALC, we have a tradition when someone graduates, and it is really fun. They could graduate at any moment, so it is really fun when they get to do a bell ringing ceremony,” Moskowitz continued.
During bell ringing ceremonies, the graduating student can parade around the hall with their family, while teachers and students cheer them on. This is one of the highlights to her teaching experience and commemorates the way each little moment adds up.