Daniela grew as an educator in a little-known but lovely corner of the U.K.

Fitzalan is a pretty unique school in Wales. It’s a large urban school with a very diverse population, serving 11 to 18 year olds. It has a reputation as a “challenging” school, but is well-known for a huge turnaround in scores over the last few years. The school puts a lot of focus on tracking students’ score data, sorts students into fine-grained levels by ability, and offers plenty of targeted support to students. Daniela was based with the math department.

Daniela taught a mix of classes across age groups and subjects: introducing induction proofs to the higher math students, teaching algorithmic concepts to different age groups in computer science, co-leading a simulation of half life in Year 9 science, conducting mock college interviews with sixth formers, and talking about American universities to many groups. She also spent time observing other teachers’ classes and helping students individually. There were three particular highlights:
Perhaps her favorite teaching experience was meeting five times with the same small group of unconfident year-nine girls. They worked through a variety of unusual applications of numeracy – estimating a village population, figuring out the number of windows in a triangular building, building tessellations, and analyzing the Towers of Hanoi. She loved seeing their curiosity and problem-solving skills emerge.
She led an entire “puzzle day” with a year-nine class, with activities and discussions around paradoxes, probability, and infinity – some pretty advanced material.
She collaborated with a music teacher to run a multi-session project in which students turned mathematical sequences into atonal compositions.
 

What was life like outside of work?

  • Adjusting to Wales was easier than to other places she'd been because there was no language barrier. She could get around easily on my own, and people were generally open to chatting.
  • Adjusting to Wales was easier than to other places I’ve been because there was no language barrier. I could get around easily on my own, and people were generally open to chatting.
  • Adjusting to Wales was easier than to other places I’ve been because there was no language barrier. I could get around easily on my own, and people were generally open to chatting.
  • Cardiff is an easy city to live in – small enough to walk but with good public transportation, lots of green space and a few unique tourist attractions, and plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, opportunities for outings. She was surprised at how early shops closed.

She only saw a bit of the nature of rural Wales, but of course that was fantastic. She'd love to come back and see more.

Take some time to reflect. What were your successes while you were abroad?
Sharing her life experiences exposed a lot of kids to the idea of studying in the U.S. or otherwise further afield than Cardiff, which wasn’t always on their radar. Another part was exposing kids to new approaches to math and computer science that they hadn’t previously seen. A class of Year 10s gave her a round of applause after she told them about the million-dollar P vs. NP problem. Several of a group of unconfident Year 9 girls said they felt more confident and interested in math after their lessons. This trip reminded Daniela how much she loves teaching and working with kids, and how impactful a good math lesson or a new relationships can be on students. She felt reaffirmed in her goal to teach abroad next year. She loved being in Wales and might look for a position there.

 

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