You Will Like Math


Photo by: Kate Perry

New math teacher Helen Lee at home in her classroom

It’s 3:10 on a Friday.  But inside room 74, stiflingly hot in the afternoon sun, Mrs. Helen Lee is still in teaching mode.  As the clock ticks away, she bends over the work of the two boys she is tutoring to make a small correction.  She is young, with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, a white blouse, and high-heeled sandals.   Her classroom is as organized as she is: brightly colored math posters and graphs outlined in construction paper are arranged neatly around the walls.
Lee is one of six new math teachers at CCHS this year, and is teaching Algebra I, Algebra 1B, and Algebra Support.
According to Dr. Keao Tano, the chair of the math department, the new hires are part of an effort to lower class sizes and provide students with more math options.  Tano, who watched Lee’s sample lesson as part of the hiring process last year, was impressed with her ability to engage the students and teach them effectively at the same time.  “She knocked it out of the park!” he says.  Tano also mentioned that Lee’s prior teaching experience recommended her for the job.
Before coming to Culver, Lee taught Algebra I at San Andreas High School in San Bernardino for five years.  After getting married and moving to Los Angeles last year, she continued to commute to San Bernardino every day for the last two months of school.  This year, however, she decided that a job closer to home might be a better option.
There is more diversity here at Culver than at her old school, she says.  “Here, I see every color of the rainbow.”  She is also struck by the motivation and amount of parent involvement she sees on campus.  The most impressive thing, however, is Culver’s school spirit.  “I have students begging me to go to football games,” she laughs.
Ian Argüello, a freshman in Lee’s second period class, describes her as very calm, nice, and outgoing.  “She doesn’t like to yell,” he says.  “She believes it doesn’t change anything, just makes things worse.”
Argüello describes Lee as always ready with a smile when her students walk in the door.  “She loves helping us,” he says.  “She loves it when we ask for help.”
Lee began tutoring on the side after college.  It was then that she began to like teaching and consider it as a career.  “I liked seeing the lightbulb go on,” she says.  Lee describes tutoring a boy who was struggling with math and failing his class.  Eventually, under Lee’s guidance, he began to understand the concepts, and even started to enjoy math.  “I loved seeing that change,” Lee says simply.
As she finishes telling this story, Lee turns to one of the boys she is currently tutoring.
“Do you like math?”
“No,” he replies.
“When you leave my class,” she returns decisively, “you will like math.”