An expanded Q&A with NCTM President-Elect Trena Wilkerson:
What drove you to become an educator?
I loved mathematics, but I guess many say that! I also found that I really liked teaching it, making connections, and helping others to make those connections. Finding ways to help students understand (especially those who seemed to struggle with certain ideas in mathematics) is intriguing to me. I taught high school mathematics for eighteen years and found it exciting to work with students across algebra, geometry, calculus, and more. Later I became interested in teacher education and working with preservice teachers, so that led to where I am today, working with our current and future teachers of mathematics. I am always learning from them!
What are you most passionate about as a mathematics educator?
TW: Helping others see the value of mathematics and to see how it connects to them. I love mathematics and find it amazing and exciting how it all fits, connects! I want to help others to see and experience those connections—to be empowered through mathematics.
What is one of your favorite articles from earlier issues?
TW: There are so many, not the least of which is the Rules That Expire series that appeared over the years in each of the three grade-band journals! But most recently, I have used the MTMS Focus Issue on Productive Struggle (Jan./Feb. 2018) in professional development sessions with teachers across grades 5–12 over the past year. They enjoyed the problems, extending to various grade levels, making connections, exploring considerations for social justice, and examining more closely how to support learners in productive struggle for deep understanding of mathematics. I learned so much from the experienced authors who wrote those articles!
What mathematical concept or idea stands out to you?
TW: What stands out to me most is more of a process than a specific concept. I particularly like looking at mathematical connections, those within and across mathematics concepts, but also in the real world and real life. My students, friends, and colleagues often laugh at me when I have a “math encounter.” I just have to point it out and talk about it! It is so fun when they then share with me their mathematical encounters as well.