New Staff Members Spotlight: Ms. Siwek

“Teaching runs in my family. My great grandfather was a history teacher and then became the principal of a school. He married a math teacher. Then they had my grandmother who was a language teacher who married a physical education teacher. Then they had my mom who was supposed to be a Polish language teacher in Poland but then moved to the United States. I also have two aunts who are teachers and an uncle who is a math teacher. So, I guess my whole family influenced me,” says new math teacher Karolina Siwek about her decision to become a teacher.

“While I was growing up I heard about their experiences and saw how rewarding it is to be a teacher. I saw how much hard work went into it but how happy it made everyone at the end of the day. I knew I wanted to have a career that made me feel that way too.”

Ms. Siwek, who this year will teach Algebra I CP, Algebra II CP and Algebra II, began at VHS at the end of last school year teaching PreCalc CP, PreCalc Honors and Algebra II CP. She speaks fluent Polish, has traveled to 18 countries with plans to grow that number, has volunteered to teach children in Ecuador, and the care she has for her career and students is undeniable.

She is fresh out of college as a part of The College of New Jersey’s graduating class of 2016. While TCNJ was not her first choice, she admitted that ultimately “…it ended up being the most amazing 4 years I could have asked for”. When asked about her experience and if she would recommend it to a junior or senior here looking at colleges, she commented “The professors were helpful and available at all times. I still email a lot of my professors to ask them questions about teaching! The people I met were from all over New Jersey which is great because we can still catch up all the time since no one really lives that far. Overall, the classes at the college are small and let you get to know the other students and have good relationships with everyone there. The campus is beautiful and there was just an addition of a really cool campus town. So, I would definitely recommend it to others!”

As for her major, she “…started out school as an Open Options Education Major with an idea of pursuing biology. However, after the first semester I decided that biology wasn’t the right fit for me. After taking a math class, I remembered how much I loved math in high school and I declared my major to be elementary education and math. Later on, after having experiences in elementary schools I realized that I really wanted to focus on just math when I was teaching and I decided to become a high school math teacher instead.”

Being a teacher has its perks and downsides like any other career, as she shares ones she’s found with us.

“I think the best part about the job is that feeling when a student’s eyes light up because they finally understood a concept. The pride that the student feels is reflected in the teacher in a way. Also, the fact that as a teacher you impact so many people’s lives and even if they don’t remember the specific concept you taught them, they will remember you and how you encouraged and challenged them.”

On the flip side, “I think the hardest part about being a teacher is the fact that sometimes even though you think you have a great lesson, it may not actually go as planned. You may think that you are going to get through to everyone and you hope that everyone will understand the concept you are teaching but that’s often not the case. We do our best but sometimes we fail at our goals. Dealing with that and adjusting for it can be difficult.”

Teaching here at Verona High School is Ms. Siwek’s first solo teaching job, and she notes that “After coming in for the last month last year, I have been very impressed by the quality of students in Verona. The students are eager to learn every day and very attentive. They try their best and are not afraid to ask questions or ask for help when they need it. The staff in Verona has also been extremely supportive and helpful making my first year a lot easier.”

Her biggest goal this year is to get her students to feel comfortable making mistakes in math. I think that a large part of learning math is struggling to figure out the problems and the concepts. “It is difficult for students to understand some problems and apply the concepts we are learning,”  she says.  “But once it clicks they get really excited. Ideally everyone will learn through their mistakes – including me!”