Student Essay Contest

Mrs. Christine Schive: Breaking the Mold

2005 AWM Essay Contest: High School Level Honorable Mention

By Natalya Kostandova

Young dancers sit motionlessly on the damp grass, attentively watching the figure of their instructor in its graceful movement. The instructor is submerged in the dance, her gaze intense as she performs a routine that amazes me with its complexity and power. This woman, however, is not a professional dance performer; she is a teacher of mathematics at John W. North High School. I cannot help but laugh as I compare Mrs. Christine Schive to the image of an archetypal math teacher. As studies have shown, students picture mathematicians with “no friends, except other mathematicians, not married or seeing anyone, usually fat, very unstylish, wrinkles in their forehead from thinking so hard, no social life whatsoever, 30 years old, [with] a very short temper.” [1]. A slender, beautiful woman with an outgoing, caring personality, Mrs. Schive is just about the opposite of this stereotype.
Born in the city of Riverside, Mrs. Schive was raised by her mother after her father died when she was only seven years old. She attended Highland Elementary and University Middle School, going on to attend John W. North High School. It was there that, during her sophomore year, Mrs. Schive was inspired by her Advanced Algebra teacher, who amazed her with the endless ways that mathematics could be presented and taught. After one of her classmates jeered at Mrs. Schive, taunting her that she could never teach mathematics because she was a woman, she let no doubt enter her mind. Combining her stubbornness and desire to study math, She decided to pursue a mathematical career.
After receiving Bachelor Degree in mathematics from University of California, Riverside, Mrs. Schive started teaching math at North, becoming the third teacher of International Baccaulareate (IB) Higher Level Math, and taking the position of a drill team advisor. Leading the team to many prestige victories, Mrs. Schive does not see dance and math as two very different areas. Instead, she finds that they are closely related, as math transcends not only the rhythm but the choreography of the dance. Indeed, she attests that while she wholeheartedly loves teaching math, it is through dance that she can express herself. “It is my creative outlet,” Christine said, “and the math of dance is not as rigid as [that] of the classroom.”
Although Mrs. Schive is a teacher, she believes that she herself has not yet finished learning. She spends every summer catching up with the ever-evolving field of mathematics, learning about new advances and developments. She plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Education this summer, and considers her teaching at North to be a valuable learning experience. Christine teaches a variety of levels, from Algebra I to IB Higher Level Math, and enjoys the challenge of having to approach every class and student differently. Mrs. Schive presents math in novel and original, yet easy to understand, ways that incites and develops students’ interest in math.
With teaching, grading, and endless drill team practices and competitions, Mrs. Schive has little free time, yet she takes every opportunity she has to spend time with her family. She is married to an economics teacher and has two children, Shawn Jaden and Taren Gregory, ages 5 and 2, respectively. She also cares for two dogs, a cat, and two fish, one for each child.
Mrs. Christine Schive is a young woman whose shares her passion for math, creativity, and life with others. Yet, she is not only an amazing teacher, but an incredibly caring and loving person as well. Defying the archetypal image of a math teacher, her life is an inspiration to all those who strive to achieve their goals in spite of existing stereotypes.
Work Cited
[1] de Bruxelles, Simon. “Pupils Sum Up Math Teachers as Fat Nerds.” The Times, Jan.3, 2001.
About the student:
My name is Natalya Kostandova and I am a senior at John W. North High School in Riverside, California. Born in Ukraine, my interest in mathematics was spurred when I was just a child, as I rode in a trolleybus and recognized patterns of the Harter-Heighway dragon fractal in the pattern created by frost on the window. Since then, I have pursued mathematics with passion, not only taking the most challenging classes available, but studying on my own the topics that are not covered in our school curriculum. I plan to major in mathematics and ultimately become a math professor.