Saturday, September 03, 2005


sweet, sweet ms. burns

Ms. Burns was my high school calculus teacher, and one of my favorite teachers. She was an older lady, though not white-haired. Her personality really meshed well with my learning style and sense of humor. Ms. Burns had the driest, most sarcastic sense of humor I have encountered to date. I don't learn too well from teachers that take themselves or their material too seriously, and Ms. Burns, though brilliant, did not do either. She knew the material like the back of her hand, and always had the correct answer to a question. Her explanations were clear and arguments cogent. As one of her students, I feel I grasped the elegance and over-arching theory of calculus, not just the mechanics of taking derivatives and evaluating integrals. As a physics major, understanding the "inner-workings" of the calculus proved invaluable.

Somehow, Ms. Burns was able to make even the stupid and trivial calculus problems, if not fun and interesting, at least bareable. In class, she was always cracking jokes and sarcastically making fun of her favorite students ( me :) ). Outside of class, Ms. Burns was available for extra help and seemed to assign exactly the right amount of homework to master the concepts. I understand that she was at an incredible advantage in teaching the best and the brightest at our school, but I believe she also taught remedial math at some point in her career.

Ms. Burns is one of my favorite teachers that I have ever had. She inspired me to see the beauty of math, not just the utility. Though I will probably never be the teacher she is, I try to take some of the lessons I learned from her. Most importantly, I am incorporating humor in the classroom. Just one problem: most of my sarcasm doesn't reach my students.

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