BY JOE MARVILLI
A Bayside math teacher received a fellowship for his efforts to share his educational methods with parents and teachers.
Bobson Wong, who teaches at Bayside High School, was named as a recipient of the America Achieves New York Educator Voice Fellowship for the 2014-15 school year. The fellowship is given to educators who show leadership in their neighborhoods and communicate their in-school experiences of teaching to higher standards to audiences outside the school.
With the fellowship, Wong joins a group of 55 teachers and administrators across New York State. They speak at the local, state and national level about public education, sharing their best practices with concerned citizens and with one another.
Specifically, much of the discussion has to do with classroom experiences set by the Common Core standards, helping their colleagues make the shift to this new method. By talking about the higher standards and different ways to meet them, these educators are also working to help parents understand what their children are going through.
“Math nowadays, especially with the Common Core curriculum, encourages independent thinking,” Wong said. “It’s important for parents to understand that in order for students to think independently, they need time to practice, they need time to think and it’s hard.”
One way that Wong helps his students to think independently is by encouraging them to look for patterns in their work, to take the skills they learned on one problem and see if it can be applied to another. The teacher added that students will use this ability throughout their lives, even if they do not go into a math-heavy field.
Wong’s own teaching has benefitted from the Master Teacher program at Math for America, a non-profit organization that aims to elevate teaching through professional development and stipend support. He is a two-time recipient of the Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship. This experience allowed him to interact and learn from like-minded math teachers, giving him fresh outlooks and ideas.
“It’s helped me and a lot of other teachers stay in the profession,” he said. “Teachers need support and people to bounce ideas off of. They can’t work in a vacuum.”
As a result of the conversations he had with other teachers at Math for America, Wong co-authored an article about teaching geometry in a journal for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
While he has been a teacher for 10 years, Wong did not start in education. Instead, he applied his math skills to several different fields, but always found himself drawn to the educational aspects of his work. He became a teacher in 2005 and started working at Bayside High School in 2006. He been part of that school ever since.
“I like the community and the diversity of Bayside,” he said. “Bringing students from different levels together is important. It allows students to see people who are not like them. That’s really important in life, to see different perspectives and see different people.”
Wong does more than just classroom teaching at Bayside High School. He is the faculty advisor for the school’s Moody Mega Math Challenge and for its student-run math magazine, Infinity. He said that these activities allow him to combine his interests in history and mathematics, under the field of statistics.
“The real world is messy, the real world is complicated. In order to understand it, you need some kind of mathematical model,” he said. “I’ve always looked for ways to share my enthusiasm for statistics. I’ve done that through things like the math magazine and the challenge team.”
While Wong prioritizes teaching his students to think independently, he said that they help him think in new ways as well. Whether a student is doing well or struggling, Wong gets a new perspective that helps him become a better teacher.
“My students really make me think,” he said. “I have students every day that make me realize, as much as I know about math, there’s a lot I don’t know. If they’re not getting something, there’s something more I have to do.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.