Master of Arts in Teaching, 2011
School of Education
July 1, 2011
“I am a true believer that any differences – cultural, economic, or familial – no matter how great, can be overcome by finding common ground.”
Margaret (Peggy) Devine teaches sixth grade math in a fundamental intermediate school in Santa Ana, California, and lives those words everyday as she engages her students in “hands on” math lessons, incorporating technology and individualized instruction. Her belief is based on her own life experiences as a student, parent, and tutor, and as an actuarial computer programmer.
Ms. Devine came to Villa Fundamental Intermediate School through the University of California, Irvine Spring Start Intern Teacher Credential Program. She had experienced a very successful and fulfilling career as a programmer with an actuarial consulting firm in New York before her family moved to California. Based on experience with her own three children and in their schools, she found that students learn differently based on their academic strengths and learning styles. She also discovered that technology could be a valuable tool.
Working with a guidance counselor at Villa, Ms. Devine discovered that the school had access to the Johns Hopkins Online Classes for Gifted Students. Suspecting that some of her students might qualify, her efforts led to eight students at the school qualifying for the program. The school also had access to the Mind Institute’s Secondary Intervention Program for math fluency, commonly known as JiJi. The computer program is designed to teach math by combining automaticity with understanding. Students can be working at different levels, as they respond to questions in journals prepared by Devine, to reinforce the functions that they’ve performed on the computer. This conceptual work is reinforced with the problems in their math textbooks.
Finding the “common ground” isn’t just about identifying academic needs and learning styles. It also involves understanding each child as an individual. My commitment in the classroom is to provide an environment that is both nurturing and instructional.
With over 200 students each day in six core and support math classes, this takes a special kind of effort. Ms. Devine meets students before and after school and at lunchtime to tutor, or simply provide a place for them to work. She also co-directs the Student Leadership Club.
While I may not look like them, or talk like them (I still have a faint New York accent, and many of the students are English language learners), the students know that I care about them, believe in them, and know that they can master math.
Ms. Devine’s efforts were rewarded by Villa in March when she was named the Sixth Grade Teacher of the Month.