As the first day of class approaches at Boyd High School, the anticipation and nerves for Lydia Montalvo multiply.
“I’m nervous, of course,” said the 23-year-old first-year math teacher. “It’s a new school, with new students in a small town. I get the vibe that everyone knows everyone, and I’m the newcomer. I’m a little nervous, but also excited.”
Twice her age, but also preparing to take over a classroom for the first time when classes start Aug. 29, her fellow high school math teacher Mario Rondon shares many of the same feelings.
“The nerves are there like anyone starting a new role,” he explained. “But we know our stuff. We’ve got to develop relationships with the students, find out how to relate that knowledge to them and get them where they need to be.”
Montalvo and Rondon will be two of three at Boyd High School and some of many around Wise County entering the field at a time when technology and traditional teaching are merging at a fast pace. Teachers are also facing higher demands, especially in the core subjects of math, language arts, science and social studies with more rigorous and high-stakes testing.
Boyd High School Principal Ted West, who was named the district’s lone finalist for the superintendent job Monday, said first-year teachers face unique challenges as they learn the profession and how to interact with students.
“It’s getting adjusted to the role of teaching,” he said. “It’s more than just being in front of the class and instructing.
“We’ve been going through training this week on identifying students with certain characteristics and what their needs are. It takes a special person to do that.”
West said Montalvo and Rondon both have the background and training to do the job.
Their backgrounds are quite different. Montalvo is fresh out of college at Texas Christian University, where she majored in math with a minor in education.
“I student taught, but this is my first year on my own,” she said. “I’m finally doing something I want.”
Rondon entered education after spending 23 years as an accountant. He worked in content mastery classrooms last year at Northwest where he was named Paraprofessional of the Year.
Rondon said after 23 years in the private sector, he found himself wanting to give back and that led him into education.
“I looked at my life and who made the most impact in where I am, and it came back to my teachers,” he said. “I began to think about giving back, and it led to getting into education.”
Though their backgrounds are different, they are bonded by their passion for math.
“I’m the biggest nerd when it comes to math,” Montalvo said. “Not just the subject but also the history. It’s in my nature. I’m really logical and rational.”
As an accountant, Rondon’s seen how the subject is applicable in everyday life. It’s something he hopes to translate to his students.
“The biggest thing you hear from students is ‘when am I going to use this?’” Rondon said. “You use it every day in calculating your pay stub to make sure it’s right and balancing your checkbook.”
Montalvo and Rondon enter classrooms with far more technology than was present during their time as students.
“In junior high, I started with a slide rule,” Rondon said. “My first calculator was in college.”
Montalvo points out that she had graphing calculators and projectors, but it was far from the current technology.
“We’ve come a long ways with the smartboards,” she said. “I come from a tech savvy era. There’s a lot of resources on the Internet. I’m constantly going there.”
But while the technology is there, the two teachers point out that developing an understanding of the material is also critical.
“The tools available have changed dramatically,” Rondon said. “But you still have to understand the concept of how you come up with that answer. If you’re putting stuff in and don’t understand it, you won’t recognize it’s garbage.”
The teachers know they will need to be flexible in their efforts to reach students and explain the material. They realize math presents multiple ways to solve problems.
“We can be teaching the same class, but approach problems differently,” Montalvo said.
Rondon added: “There may be three or four ways of presenting the material. There’s not one set in stone way.”
Rondon said students are free outside of class in tutorials to go seek help from another teacher that can maybe translate the material in another way.
The two teachers say they will work together and with the rest of the math staff to help students.
“I’m excited to hear his ideas,” Montalvo said. “We’re always learning.”
With the requirements facing students before graduating, West points out that math is a major point of emphasis. He wants to see students excelling in the subject.
“We don’t want to be adequate; we want our students excelling,” he said.
While there are some nerves, Montalvo and Rondon are anticipating next week and their new students arriving.
“I’m looking forward to Wednesday,” Rondon said.
But Montalvo said there is work to be done in her classroom before then.
“I’m girlie and still need to decorate,” she said. “I can’t stand white walls.”