Fellow Q&A: WW Teaching Fellow Bethany Fowler
WW Teaching Fellows come from many different backgrounds but are united by a single goal: to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM fields) to some of the nation’s highest-need students. But what makes these Fellows tick? What inspired them to pursue a career in the classroom? In this WW Perspectives series, we hear from WW Teaching Fellows about what drew them to the program.
Bethany Fowler is a 2014 WW New Jersey Teaching Fellow in her first year of teaching mathematics at Collingswood High School in Collingswood, N.J. It was a love of math and interacting with students that led Ms. Fowler to the classroom.
WWP: What drew you to teaching math as a career?
Bethany Fowler: I’ve always enjoyed mathematics and knew that I wanted a career that involved math. I had the opportunity as an undergraduate to work for Dr. Uri Treisman who is an incredible mathematics educator and researcher at The University of Texas. I worked as his assistant for his calculus course at the university for three years, and had an incredible time getting to help and mentor students. After graduating, I went to Arizona State University as a Ph.D. student in Mathematics Education to begin researching how students learn mathematics. My work involved running long-term clinical studies to identify how students solved problems, but I felt it lacked immediate opportunities for me to help the students I worked with. While teaching two semesters of Pre-Calculus at ASU, I fell in love with the daily contact with students and the ability to help them grow. It soon became very clear that I was meant to be in the classroom.
WWP: Was there any reason you chose your specific university?
BF: I just wanted to be at a university that had a math program—that’s why I chose Rowan, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out!
WWP: What do you think was the best preparation that you received for the realities of classroom teaching?
BF: The yearlong clinical experience is easily the most valuable part of the WW Teaching Fellowship. To be able to be in the classroom every single day from the first day of school to the last day of school allowed me to be exposed to so many different situations where I was able to learn and grow. By the end of the year, my mentor teacher had stepped back and I was effectively the teacher and my students saw me as such. It allowed me to become extremely comfortable with leading a classroom full of a variety of learners.
WWP: What matters most to you about your students?
BF: The most important thing about my students is their belief in themselves. I try my best to make it very clear that we all make mistakes, we all struggle, but the most important response is to keep trying.
WWP: What’s the most rewarding part of the program so far for you?
BF: I think the most rewarding part thus far was getting to watch many of the students I taught during my clinical year graduate. As they celebrated their achievements and all the wonderful places they were heading off to, I was able to reflect on all the struggles they had and the times that they persevered and pushed through. It was nice to know that I played at least a small part in that journey.
WWP: What would you say to someone who’s considering becoming a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow?
BF: I would let them know that if they are interested in teaching, this is an incredible opportunity. From the clinical experience, the university classes, mentors, and professional development, I have gained the knowledge and experiences that allowed me to develop into a confident teacher and land the job that I wanted. I also want to stress that the support doesn’t end after the first year. As a first-year teacher, it is amazingly valuable to be able to reach out to my university professors, mentor teacher, and other Fellows for advice anytime!
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.