Math education adds up to a medal 0
Bradford District High School Teacher Jim Sparks has been recognized by the University of Waterloo's René Descartes Foundation for the Advancement of Mathematics, for his work in raising the level of Math Education in Ontario.
He is one of just 3 teachers to receive the René Descartes medal this year, presented at the University of Waterloo on June 9.
Sparks says, "I feel honoured to be recognized by my peers for my work as a teacher. It has been said that teaching is its own reward, and I truly feel that it is. To be presented with such a prestigious award is very humbling, and I am so glad to bring more attention to the importance of mathematics.
"I'm greatly honoured."
Sparks, who graduated from the University of Waterloo with a degree in Mathematics, has been teaching at Bradford District High School for 30 years. Department head since 1993, "I'm now to the stage of teaching kids' kids."
Students are every bit as able to do math now as they were back then, he says - but the trick is to keep them engaged, and interested. "For me, for every grade - whether you're Calculus Vector or Applied - I always try to find something the kids know, to start a lesson."
As long as the teacher leads in with "stuff they know" and familiar concepts, students are willing and able to embrace new concepts, he says. Otherwise, "they will tune you out."
It's a challenge that Sparks enjoys. "It's why I still like what I do."
He is modest about the honour, and notes that Simcoe County, over the years, has generated a number of winners, both teachers, and students participating in the annual University of Waterloo Math competitions.
In fact, BDHS students "finished first in the Simcoe County team this year - and that's happened before."