In my seven years of teaching social studies in the Bronx and East Austin, I learned about the intense complexities of setting up an environment where students can be their best selves and focus on learning. Too often, our most vulnerable students and families are underserved by education situations that do not meet their needs and do not allow them to become the successful adults they want to be.
My favorite 11th-grade teacher Elizabeth Aston-Sullivan insisted I take a fourth year of math in high school. She saw something in me that took me nine years to see for myself. Once I became an educator, amazing mentors helped and encouraged me—including my students, whose actions, emotions, and beliefs shaped my teaching.
I was a first-generation college student. Going to college changed my life, thanks to wonderful faculty and learning about disciplines I had no idea existed. For this reason, I have worked in higher education for almost my entire career. I have a deep respect for students and faculty, and I know that education changes lives.
As a proud and passionate reading educator, I know that literacy, more than any other skill, can change the trajectory of a life. I love teaching children to read and watching the world open up to them in new ways. I am grateful to work with amazing colleagues, AmeriCorps tutors, school partners, and community supporters who believe all our children have a right to become fully literate.
I come from a family of teachers and have always had a passion for learning. That passion has moved me in my career from an elementary classroom teacher, to a district math coach, to here at the Dana Center where I work with teachers and leaders. I enjoy my work helping teachers think deeply about how their students learn and about how they can grow as professionals.
I grew up in Bowie, Maryland and never questioned whether or not I would go to college—only where. After college, I redirected my career toward the language arts and education leadership. I now play with words the way I used to play with numbers and formulas. It’s a magical experience that I’ve shared with the many elementary students I taught and the new teachers I supervised, many who didn’t think they were writers or that they could teach young students to write.
More than 20 years ago, on my second day on the job, I told Uri Treisman that I’d never, uh, studied calculus. His response? “It’s not too late.” Before I started working here, I hadn’t understood that math is a language. The most precise language we have for capturing reality.
As professor of mathematics and department chair at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio, Rikki worked diligently to promote active learning for her students and to bring technology into the curriculum. Among other activities, she is the author of two textbooks, has served as president of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), and co-edited the DCMP volume Emerging Issues in Mathematics Pathways (2019).
My high school chemistry teacher laughed when I told him I wanted to major in math or science in college. He told me those were career paths for boys. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him and proud that I went on to teach AP Chemistry and author a book of chemistry activities. There is no mission more important than nurturing the intellect and aspirations of children.
My mother taught kindergarten for more than 25 years, instilling the importance of education in the Engler household from an early age. Even though I didn’t follow her path into the education field, I have worked my entire adult life educating my colleagues on proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. My goal is to eradicate excessive use of commas and incorrect implementation of hyphens (particularly following an adverb in –ly).