Student Essay Contest

Play With It!: An Interview with Ms. Aukema

2013 AWM Essay Contest: Middle School Level Honorable Mention

By: April Liu, John Knox Christian School, Burnaby, BC, Canada

The definition of a teacher: a person who teaches. On the contrary, in a kid’s dictionary, it might look something like this: “Teachers. An abnormal specimen which continues to be unknown and studied by keen scientists.” That was what I was thinking when I entered the classroom of Ms. Aukema, my previous grade 5 math teacher. But after our interview, I found out some really cool information about her that I didn’t realize before! Turns out that, on the inside, Ms. Aukema is a really cool and more of a traditional teacher who truly cares about students’ learning. Ms. Aukema loves to read and knit. She delights in gardening and socializing with friends, and likes to spend time doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku at home. Ms. Aukema says, with a little chuckle, that she, just like some people, often goes out for coffee. That does seem pretty normal in my opinion, unless you refer to opening up books and planting flowers as extraterrestrial.
Ms. Aukema is actually the truly intelligent and inspiring type of person whom you rarely meet. Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and with a Dutch background, Ms. Aukema is the first of five children in her family. Upon completion of high school, she attended the University of Alberta for 4 years. When I asked Ms. Aukema if she could describe her teaching experience in one word, she thought about it for a moment and came up with “rewarding”. She gets excited about the fact that teaching makes her see the “light go on” in her students’ minds. Ms. Aukema particularly enjoys teaching math because it is so much fun to play with things and finally get to solutions. “Everything in math fits so well together and it all makes sense. It’s orderly and organized.”
Ms. Aukema’s students are very lucky because she knows what kids can be like and can connect with how they feel. One of the obstacles to learning that she notices is when her students are thinking that they can’t do it, but she can relate. She also detests the way some of the math programs are set up and how they don’t lead to systematic progress or building foundational skills one after another. She also identified a lack of practice. Ms. Aukema firmly believes that students should be fully equipped with the right tools before they tackle successive areas.
When I was in Ms. Aukema’s Grade 5 math class and studying multiplication and division, she would drill us on multiplication tables every single day and give us time limits. The next thing I knew, my whole class, including me, could write down all the multiplication tables, from 1-12, in only three minutes! It became our second instinct! One of my classmates said that “multiplication” was becoming his middle name. Ms. Aukema is also the kind of person you could definitely go to anytime you need help. She would help you solve your problem no matter what it was.
For kids who are interested in pursuing a career in mathematical science or becoming a math teacher, here is Ms. Aukema’s advice: “Keep on enjoying math! Play with it! Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be satisfied with just getting an answer; work towards understanding. Try to explain not only to yourself, but also to other people.”
Looking down at my list of questions, I asked Ms. Aukema what the best part about teaching was. Now, a regular teacher would probably say “The holidays!” or “Grading report cards!” But Ms. Aukema said the best part about teaching, which she especially loved, was the fact that a teacher could make a difference in a student’s life. Ms. Aukema is a role model of being a bright and passionate lifelong learner.
About the Student:
My name is April Liu and I am a sixth grade student attending John Knox Christian School in Burnaby, B.C., Canada. I want to become an architect or a psychologist when I grow up. I really like math and I particularly enjoy Algebra. I have a deep interest in Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology, and I attended the Johns Hopkins University’s CTY camp for the “Heroes and Villains” program last year. Some of my hobbies include playing volleyball and basketball, running, listening to music and reading.