Elliot Shields, a native of the Pacific Northwest, attended Pomona College, where he started out as physics major before eventually turning to mathematical economics. Shields is an Alternative Choices in Education (ACE) math teacher. He previously taught at a charter school in the Berkshires. In his free time, Shields enjoys playing video games.
What do you like about teaching in Alternative Choices in Education?
I think that the program is really exciting to me because I can get to know the students quite well. I don’t have a good sense of what mainstream is like, I just know that I went to a high school that had 2,700 students. And so I have very specific, positive memories of being in classes with teachers, but I didn’t have any actual sort of developed teacher-student relationships when I was a student because my high school was so large. Until my last years of high school, I did the International Baccalaureate program. I was put into very small classes because there were very few people going after this diploma. And that’s part of what I like about this program is that it’s not actually the small class size, just the consistency that I’m going to see these students most of the day all year. And that this becomes a space that they have not ownership of but definitely belonging. This is a space they belong to. So I think that’s very exciting. But I do like teaching math in general, and not specifically as part of this project-based program.
What are your interests and hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?
I definitely really enjoy video games. I feel like I’m very technically minded. I don’t have a lot of technical skills, I don’t have skills in computer programming, but I certainly have a great deal of fascination and interest in things like computer programming and physics as they relate to mathematics. I actually do sometimes go home and do math for fun.
Based on your interests, what do you want your students to get by the end of the year?
I want students to develop a mindset that math is useful, to get to the point where they see the process of modeling. What I actually mean by that is that they see that there is a mathematical path waiting to a solution and that they value that, ideally in a context that doesn’t have anything to do with math class. There’s very little point in having a student develop a specific skill in algebra, there is a tremendous utility in having a student adopt an algebraic framework for reasoning. Because what algebra is–it’s a way of determining unknown values. That’s what I want my students to do. Also, I desperately would like my students to just be happy. When they see something in math, there are many students in this building that have a positive response and many students in this building who don’t have a positive response. I want to slowly help my students transition into that first group.