Michaela Epstein | Cohort 2012 Associate | Hometown: Sydney NSW
Bachelor of Science | Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Associate Director of Learning | Maths Pathway
“I don’t delude myself. I know that maths isn’t the favourite subject for many students. In many of my classes, I’ve had students who’d rather watch paint dry than be challenged in maths. It’s a subject associated with a great degree of anxiety for many.”
For Michaela Epstein who spent two years teaching maths to students at Chaffey Secondary College in Mildura, Victoria, the challenge of getting students to engage with the subject is one she has grappled with throughout her career. She believes that the answer is bigger than the classroom and that we need to change how Australians think and feel about maths.
Michaela started to crack the code as an Associate with Teach For Australia and continued to see success when she implemented a numeracy program at Hume Senior Secondary College where she served as a Lead Teacher.
“My most memorable moment actually happened twice a week in a classroom full of around 50 Year 7 students and 5 teachers. Each numeracy lesson, there’d be a buzz in the room – students were eager to do well, to learn and to support one another. In between classes, students would come up to me and tell me about the progress they’d made,” she says.
“Why did this happen? Students were learning at their point of need and given regular feedback, classes were structured yet not dogmatically so and, importantly, activities were interesting and fun.”
This year, Michaela has joined the team at Maths Pathway, an exciting startup co-founded by Teach For Australia Alumni, which is completely reforming the way schools structure, teach and assess maths. In only a few short years, Maths Pathway has grown to support more than 22,000 students across Australia.
Michaela names the Teach For Australia community as one of the best parts of the program.
“Being part of the Teach For Australia community means that I get to be surrounded by amazing people doing incredible things. I’m constantly inspired by what my peers are doing, whether it’s training maths teachers in Indonesia, working with remote communities in the Northern Territory or at charter schools in the United States, making a difference in the not-for-profit sector or in education policy.
“And always in the background is Teach For Australia as an organisation. It provides leadership coaching, conferences and other interesting opportunities to bring people together and reinvigorate their sense of purpose towards achieving better educational outcomes.”
In the immediate term, Michaela is on a not-so-secret mission to challenge Australians to #talkmathsup on social media and change the conversation from the ground up.