Cathy finds it hard to believe that 2015 represents her 27th year of teaching; her third at Fintona where she is the Mathematics Co-ordinator. She is passionate about teaching maths and says that she fell in love with maths from an early age – it’s just one of those things that she gets. After leaving school, Cathy enrolled in Medicine but in her first year, soon realised that maths teaching was her true vocation. For Cathy, the good thing about teaching maths is that it is always changing and evolving - new courses, new technologies, new ways of thinking. She finds herself constantly learning and updating her knowledge to stay ahead of the game and this helps her to keep fresh.
In your career so far, you have been a Maths Co-ordinator for 16 years. Tell us about your previous work experience.
I was a long serving member of my past two schools, spending eight years at Tintern and then 16 years at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School. As a graduate teacher at Tintern, I was given remarkable opportunities; I oversaw the implementation of the Melbourne University Program for High Achieving Students in Mathematics (MUPHAS) and got to mentor some very talented young maths students from Tintern and surrounding schools. Being Mathematics Co-ordinator at PEGS for 13 years, I had the responsibility of managing a team of maths teachers while ensuring the educational needs of a large number of students were being met. These roles taught me the importance of nurturing and fostering a strong team spirit. With everyone enthusiastically working towards a common goal, you just can’t help but feel swept up with the adrenaline of it all, and inspired to do better and better.
What do you find most satisfying about being a maths teacher?
The most satisfying part of being a maths teacher for me is when a student begins to ‘get it’; when they begin to see how things are connected and why something is so. Sometimes it can take a while. Sometimes you have
to be patient and just wait till the time is right, as they say nothing worth doing is easy, but when it happens
There is a significant number of girls in the Senior School at Fintona who enjoy maths and do very well at VCE level. Why do you think that is the case?
I think it is due in a large part to the importance the School places on the learning of mathematics. Fintona has solid programs in place to support and develop the learning needs of each student. A robust curriculum coupled with substantial and meaningful enrichment and enhancement activities ensure our girls develop broad based mathematical ideas. They are not narrow thinkers. They are encouraged to take a risk, to be creative and critical problem solvers and to persevere.
You, along with Christa Ackermann, Science Co-ordinator, organised the inaugural STEM Week at Fintona in August. What do you think the students gained from the variety of activities and speakers?
Organising STEM week was great fun. There was a real energy within the science and maths faculty and working with Christa on this was pure delight; she has a true passion for all things scientific. The students (and staff) gained so much.
We were able to hear and see first-hand how useful maths is in so many areas and careers. It opened the girls’ eyes to fields they had not realised were out there and ways in which their passion for maths could be utilised.
What do you like to do when you’re not imparting your deep knowledge of Sierpinski triangles, algorithms and vector mathematics?
I love getting down to the beach. We have a family holiday home at Anglesea and my favourite times are spent in the surf with my boys (husband and two sons). For ‘my therapy for the soul’, l enjoy going to the ballet. I’ve been a subscription member of the Australian Ballet for the past eight years. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to appreciate a different world of movement, colour and form (without numbers).