Loyola University Chicago

Arrupe College

Kieran Flahive

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Title: Lecturer, Mathematics
Degrees: BS, Georgetown University; MA, Columbia University
Hometown:
 Brooklyn, NY
Courses taught: ACMAT 100 Fundamentals of Math, ACMAT 117 Pre-Calculus

What attracted you to Arrupe College?
I was attracted to Arrupe College by its mission to care for the whole student and the unique place it occupies between secondary education and a four-year institution. As a product of eight years of Jesuit education, I see great value in the role of professors, not only as experts in their field but also as mentors and advisors to young adults looking to improve themselves and the world around them. I also believe that junior colleges are an extremely important part of our education system in acting as a low-cost but high-impact gateway to a bachelor’s degree.

Talk a little about the classes you teach.
For me, the ‘what I’m teaching’ is less important than the ‘how I’m teaching it.’ In all of my classes, I am most focused on presenting inquiry-based problems that help students not just learn the math content but make sense of it. Although this approach must be reconciled with a need to cover a certain amount of content, it really helps students form a meaningful bond with the math they’re learning. I also place a lot of value in conversing with my students about the concepts they're learning and I frequently deflect questions directed at me towards other students in order to facilitate peer-to-peer math conversation. Finally, I often encourage students to initially attempt to solve problems in their head, as a way to build both confidence, mastery and fluency.

How did you get involved in teaching mathematics?
Upon graduating Georgetown, I joined Math for America, a program that, at the time, encouraged people with math backgrounds to enter the teaching profession and supported them to be lifelong professional educators. Before applying to join MfA, I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to teach, but between my mother’s successful career as a middle school math teacher and what I felt was a lack of math educators who valued an active learning environment, I knew that I could fill a need and have a wonderful time doing so. I’ve taught middle and high school math for the last five years in Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem in New York and it is equally rewarding and challenging every year.

What’s your favorite part about teaching? And the biggest challenge?
I love to watch students interact both with each other and with the math. It’s great to see students have their “a-ha” moments and it’s just as great to watch them struggle through a problem, only to reach out to their notes or one of their peers for assistance. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also love the performance aspect when I am presenting new material to the front of the class. My biggest challenge is creating the aforementioned productive struggle during class. It takes an incredible amount of experience, thought and time to come up with a lesson, classwork and discussion questions that can allow every student in the class – no matter what their prior experience or level is – to interact meaningfully with the math content. After every class, I reflect on what went well and what I could have done better as a facilitator. There is always room to improve!