Teacher Feature: Mrs. Walkiewicz

Teacher Feature: Mrs. Walkiewicz

By Zachary Berger, Staff Writer

Dr. Seuss was once quoted as saying that, “sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple”. It goes without saying that no matter where we are or what is going on in the world, MATH will always be at the forefront. Who better to be able to guide us to those simple answers than a math teacher. Enter Shannon Walkiewicz, 9th Grade Superwoman Math Teacher at Freehold High School. 

Mrs. Walkiewicz like many others wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do or be when she went through school into college.  In fact, Mrs. Walkiewicz first worked at the GAP, on the floor helping customers and in the fitting room. She said, “When I was entering college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was between teaching and something in the business field. My freshman year first semester I took microeconomics, and I decided I didn’t want to go into business. So, teaching it was! I was always a pretty strong math student, and it came easily to me. I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk doing a 9-5 every day, and teaching provides me an opportunity to build relationships and have a new experience every day.”

As she went through college Mrs. Walkiewicz became more focused to teaching and mathematics. In order to garner her teaching degree she had to undertake a many different things. “We had to do hours of observations in actual middle and high schools, and then my fellow students and I would discuss what we see, what are effective teaching strategies, etc. Then, our final semester is student teaching – that’s when we are placed in a school and paired with a teacher, and we work with that teacher to create lessons and ultimately “take over” the class from them for a period of time and teach that class as if it were our own.” she explained.

To go through everything a college student has to in order to go down the road you need those sounding boards, that person that you can go to for advice. Mrs. Walkiewicz is no different. When she was in college she had a mentor associated with the college who observed on multiple occasions and discussed their teaching strategies with them and pointed out areas of weakness. She elaborated, “There is also a class we have to attend once every other week in which we discuss strategy and our experiences as well.”

Mrs. Walkiewicz had a mentor in particular that made such an impact in her college/career. “In college, a woman named Joanne was in charge of a cohort of students (including me!) who were undeclared majors. We all had 2 common classes together, and we had monthly meetings as a group to do personality profiles and career exploration, and also just to talk about our experience as freshmen. I ended up working for her in the Career and Academic Planning Center (it’s kind of like how you’d meet with your guidance counselor about what classes you should take, but for college students) and she was a great person to know on campus to help me out with anything I needed, especially being an hour and a half away from home.”

When someone takes that step from college into their profession of choice there is always hesitancy and trepidation. Mrs. Walkiewicz said, “There weren’t any personal experiences that truly prepared me for teaching. Even student teaching doesn’t adequately prepare you – nothing prepares you like having your own class of students, when you have to figure out what you’re doing every day all by yourself for an entire school year.”

Preparing for your own class of students is one thing, preparing for your own class during a pandemic is another thing. Like many other things, teaching in a pandemic is quite different than what our classrooms looked like last year. Learning as a student has also been a little difficult as well. Mrs. Walkiewicz has found that teaching during a pandemic has been 100% more difficult than ever before. “It’s really hard to see my students progress when I can’t see their work on their desk, I can’t read all their faces, and I can’t have quick conversations with them about how they’re doing. It’s hard to deliver content in a way that is effective and also reaching both the in-person kids and the virtual kids. It’s hard to get students to participate when they’re behind a computer screen. I also don’t like being stuck behind my desk.”

Even with everything happening with COVID math is still so important in the world today. Mrs. Walkiewicz explained further, “Mathematical models help us predict spread of the virus, predict the number of people who will recover or die from it, and it will help us understand how preventative measures (such as mask wearing) can help slow the spread. The graph of the spread of the virus is a perfect exponential growth curve, which is something that is taught in Algebra. Then, once we have those predictions, we can begin to talk about the financial impacts, and that, too, involves math. Math describes much of what goes on and what we see around us, and that’s a reason why I think math is so cool to learn about.”

A Teacher Feature would not be complete without pulling the curtain further back to see what you normally wouldn’t see about a teacher. No one would have guessed that Mrs. Walkiewicz lifts weights but because of COVID she has not been able to. “I miss getting to lift in the weight room! Because of Covid-19, no one is allowed in the weight room. I would work out every Friday after school with a few other teachers.”

Besides working out Mrs. Walkiewicz can be found hanging out with her family, going to the beach and simply going to the zoo and farm with the kids. However, if she won the lottery and decided to give up teaching she said that she would open a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, and makes healthy food but it would taste delicious. As a giving teacher though if she was given the opportunity to take students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, she feels that she would take the trip to the Grand Canyon, “because everyone should experience that once in their life. It’s literally breathtaking and the most spectacular place I’ve visited.”

In a time where math and numbers are all over our computers and our televisions and is usually tied to the negative, like a warm cup of raspberry tea Mrs. Walkiewicz brings a soothing yet exciting flavor to our classes. It’s her teaching skills that has this staff writer thoroughly into each class I attend. Like she said. “I think to be a good math teacher, you have to be able to break down the content in a way that anyone can understand it; to put it in “real” terms, and to use real-life examples.”