Teacher, Phil-Mont Christian AcademyAlthough she is still a relative newcomer in her third year at Phil-Mont Christian Academy in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, Julie Swope is by no means a rookie in the classroom. "I taught instrumental music for eleven years, first at Calvary Christian Academy in Philadelphia, and then at a private boarding school in Pennington, New Jersey, where I started adding some math classes to fill out my schedule. Along with living at the boarding school as a 'hall parent,' I was teaching both music and math, and when I began looking for another job I was interested in teaching only math. I graduated from West Chester University with a bachelor's degree in music, and my elective was in math. I received my math certification from Delaware Valley College and this summer I earned my master's degree in math education from Arcadia University. Now at Phil-Mont, I've found my favorite placement of all as their middle school math teacher." "I am the only middle school math teacher here at Phil-Mont, teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. This year I have one sixth-grade class, two seventh-grade classes, two eighth-grade classes—pre-algebra and algebra. It's kind of nice because I see the kids through all three years. I really get to know them, and instead of just 'passing them off' to someone else, I know what their strengths and weaknesses are and how to help them in the best way possible. There are five of us who are the core middle school team: math, science, language arts, social studies, and Bible studies. I like the middle school age the best; I relate to the students at that age and I feel best suited to those grades." Phil-Mont also provides students the opportunity to get involved in special clubs and activities, and Julie has found her niche in this area as well. "For the last few years, we have been involved in Mathletes. This club is a fun way to learn about math history, play math games, and compete in the Math Olympiad. It's a good method for students to reinforce their math skills. Phil-Mont has a study hall block at the end of the day, which prevents the sports teams from missing class time when they have early dismissal for games. This is also when our clubs typically meet, and Mathletes meets every Tuesday." Julie understands that students need to be pulled in to math class from as many angles as possible, and taps her own interests and talents to make the subject more approachable. "Even though I taught music for eleven years, my students are still surprised when I bring it into our math program. At one of our recent musical concerts, a trombone player was out so I filled in. (Julie plays trombone, French horn, flute, and bass.) The kids were amazed to see me there playing with the orchestra! So when I can, I try to work these skills into my lessons through singing or movement."
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