I find that many teachers ‘pass on’ students who do not possess the skills necessary for the next class. I begin by figuring out how much they know and starting from there.”
James R. Town grew up in Sea Isle City, N.J., and in high school was often sought out by classmates to help explain mathematical problems. Jim graduated from the University of Southern California with a BS in electrical engineering. “Electrical engineering was a good fit for me since I excelled in physics and mathematics.” While at USC, Jim became involved with the Engineering Mentoring Program, which paired an upperclassman with two incoming freshmen to help decrease the engineering school’s high dropout rate.
Jim started his career as an electronics engineer with Ktech Telecom Inc. He enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of the job, but felt it did not provide him personal fulfillment. While working as a substitute teacher in California, he decided to focus on high school math. “Anybody could be the cool physics teacher; I wanted to be the cool math teacher.” Jim earned his MEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Vermont.
Jim designs his lessons to promote understanding. His goal is to have his students question everything that is written on the board and get them to think like mathematicians. In 2009, Jim went back to his engineering roots by becoming the lead teacher at the new Engineering Academy at his school. In 2010, he assumed leadership of the district wide math teachers’ Professional Learning Community.