On long car trips, I used to do long division for fun. The more paper I could use for a single problem, the better. While my husband loves to tease me about this, I still find joy in solving problems using elegant strategies. As a communications professional here at the Dana Center, I infuse my love of mathematics into the stories I share.
I am the product of three generations of teachers on one side of my family and three generations of ranchers on the other. From the former, I inherited a passion for reading and a tendency to question everything. From the latter, an appreciation of hard work, nature and the contributions that people in all walks of life make to the world. The result is a love of learning and a burning desire to change the world that has fueled my 28-year (and counting) career in mathematics education.
I taught middle school and high school science for 29 years, working in the Austin and Round Rock independent school districts. In the Austin ISD, I taught middle school science at Dobie Middle School for 20 years before moving to the science academy at the LBJ Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) where I taught biology, Advanced Placement biology, and earth sciences. In Round Rock ISD, I taught environmental systems, AP environmental science, biology, and AP biology.
Brian A. Sponsler, Ed.D., is vice president of policy for Education Commission of the States. In this role, he provides strategic leadership to the organization’s portfolio of policy products. He brings nearly two decades of experience in education policy research and practice, helping an array of policy decision makers craft sound policy to support student outcomes.
My unlikely journey from college dropout to a Master’s degree helped me understand the difficult and unorthodox pathways students take to realize their true passions. Since I began work in education policy over 18 years ago, my passion for helping students successfully navigate the path through college to a career that provides both fulfillment and social mobility has not wavered.
At 10 I received my first chemistry set and a designated “lab space” in the basement. Thanks to the support and encouragement of a few dedicated teachers, I was the first in my family to go to college, earning a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Chicago. Eventually, I packed up my beakers and Petri dishes to focus on science, technology, engineering, and math education programs and policy—here I found my life’s work, and I have never looked back.
For the last 18 years, I’ve been working at the postsecondary level, teaching developmental and college-level mathematics as well as teacher prep courses before taking a role at the Dana Center, where I work with outstanding math faculty on curriculum and pedagogy.
My 20-year (and counting) journey as a mathematics teacher and leader has been a “trial by fire.” I learned to survive working with high school teenagers, middle schoolers, fellow teachers, and school administrators through resiliency and a commitment to learn and find the resources needed to navigate life as an educator. I am excited to have the opportunity to share my experiences with others, in hopes that they can reflect and apply my learnings to their own lives and classrooms.