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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Mr. Rowe Goes To Middle School

September 10th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

I’ll say right at the outset: “It ain’t for the money.”

What do I mean by that? Read on . . .

For several years I have been interested not only in education in general, but how I might get actively involved, especially at the high school level in math and/or science. No, I have never been a teacher in a formal sense, and no, I don’t have a teaching  credential either. Even though I had the will and desire to become a teacher, unless I had a teaching license issued by the state of Colorado, my options were limited.

Sure, I could have been a volunteer or a private tutor, but for me these options were limited in scope, responsibility, and personal satisfaction. I thought earlier this year that I was at a dead end until I remembered an ad I had seen and saved a couple of years ago about a program called Denver Math Fellows. This program is the first large-scale tutorial program integrated into the school day to be implemented district-wide in Colorado schools.

The concept and possibility of becoming a Denver Math Fellow (DMF) really piqued my interest because one of the primary qualifications was a college degree in virtually any field (mine’s in industrial design). This was good for me because I had never been a teacher before. Other qualifications include the desire to help students close the opportunity gap in math, as well as committing to at least a one-year term of service — in my case August 2015-June 2016.

Below is a slideshow/video of some the orientation and training I did before becoming a Denver Math Fellow — just click anywhere in the photo.

 DMF Summer Institute2

Denver Math Fellows 2015 Summer Institute

As you can imagine, the application and interview processes were pretty rigorous, and for good reason. First, I submitted a resume and cover letter stating why I wanted to become a Denver Math Fellow and what I could bring to the table. Next, I had to take an online math test to prove my math proficiency. I passed, so on to the next step — a face-to-face interview with the coordinator of the program of the school I have been assigned to (whose position was unknown to me at the time), as well as producing a short tutorial (on parallel lines) and presenting to a student (who was also evaluating me).

My initial elation over having performed well (or so I thought) soon turned to deflation as I was leaving the building — I wish I could have done the tutorial over better and in a different way, were my answers to coordinator good enough, I’m an older guy with absolutely no teaching experience.

A couple weeks passed, but I didn’t know who to call, so I waited as patiently as I could. Finally, I got a letter from the Denver Public School System (DPS), but I was reluctant to open it; fearing for the worst. Well, I did open it and was ecstatic to see that I had been accepted into the program and was offered a position as a Denver Math Fellow for the 2015-2016 school year.

After that, I received a week of orientation/training at an elementary school that included all new and returning Fellows, followed by a week of training and setting up my learning environment in the school I was assigned to — West Leadership Academy (WLA). The Academy is a College Board (the company behind the SAT test) school, meaning that our ultimate goal is to get all of our students prepared to excel in high school math, and, in turn, that will prepare them for college or career training.

In a nutshell, the Denver Math Fellows charter at this time is to get middle schoolers (grades 6-8) prepared for algebra and beyond in high school. If it sounds easy; it isn’t. I didn’t quite make it to high school like I had hoped, but that’s perfectly OK. I have a lot to offer middle school students.

I was happy, though, to get assigned to this school because it is near my home and I can walk to work every day — and the days are long — 6:45 a.m. to 5:00, 6:00 p.m., and beyond.

In the room where I teach daily, there are nine other DMFs and we handle grades 6-8. I teach students in grades 6 and 8 in 50-minute blocks throughout the day. I have been assigned 4-5 students at a time, so they all get personalized attention and instruction. Let me make it clear, though, I am not their teacher. I collaborate and work in parallel with their math teachers and dive deeper in some of the more challenging math topics the students deal with throughout the school year.

This year’s Math Fellows number above 200 and are in approximately 50 schools in the Denver area, primarily elementary and middle schools, but will expand to also include high schools over time. As I said, I’ve been paired with nine other Fellows (aged 24 to 62) and two excellent coordinators who keep it all together with total and positive support. I’m honored to be a part of the team.

DMF is a part of Americorps, a national service network whose other programs include Peace Corps and VISTA.

My wife and most of my friends have been very supportive of my new adventure, and for them I am very thankful, because it’s a tough job. Some of my other acquaintances have asked why do this at your age? (I’m 60+). To them I say, “I’ve made a living, now I want to make a difference.”

The program I’m in is a not a STEM/STEAM program per se, but one of my biggest hopes is that what I and my fellow Fellows are doing leads our students down that path.

So, in closing, I’ll simply say again, why am I doing this. “It ain’t for the money.” It’s for something much bigger and the students who will create the future.

Editor’s Note: I just want all of our readers and supporters to know that although my day job has changed, and my travel schedule for the next several months is somewhat restricted, I will continue on as the Editor of MCADCafe. I, along with the team that supports me at IB Systems will continue to bring you what’s new and important in the world of electro-mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing. Our dedication to this vital industry will not waiver, even though I will be working the afternoon, night, and weekend shifts to bring you what is new and unique.

Keep the flow going and don’t hesitate to contact me:

Thanks for your continued support.

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One Response to “Mr. Rowe Goes To Middle School”

  1. Dennis Nagy says:

    Great effort, Jeff. Wish you full success.

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