The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Award-winning teacher spins stories into math gold

Never talk about a woman’s weight, unless it’s for instructional purposes.

For Bronwen Moore, comparing her college weight gain to a friend’s is one of many down-to-earth techniques that sets her teaching apart.

Moore, chair of the City College math department, is the nominee for the 2012 Regina Stanback-Stroud Diversity Award. The award  “honors faculty who have made special contributions addressing issues involving diversity,” according to the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges website.

The faculty member chosen wins $5,000, a plaque, and dinner with the President of the Academic Senate.

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“We’ve got students that are living in poverty…or students with disabilities,” said colleague Pam Guenther.   “I would say that Bronwen champions all of those students.”

Students say that Moore teaches through storytelling.

In one class, she illustrates “the golden rule in solving”: that what you do to one side of an equation, you must do to the other to keep equality.

“We’re always trying to one-up each other,” says Moore, beginning her story.

“But, in terms of weight, [my friend] and I have always been the same. She moved back to California, and she lost 10 pounds. I went to boarding school and I lost 10 pounds…Then, when we both went to college, we both gained about 15 pounds.

“So, if we’re equal, and I lose 10, and she loses 10, what’s our relationship?”

Students in her class say the stories help them remember math techniques.

“Sshe does that all the time,” said 21-year-old Ricardo Flores, a communication major. “She’s usually really funny about it, too.”

Guenther and Math Professor Ignacio Alarcon nominated Moore based on her development of Gateway tutors in the math department and building a stronger connection with Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) and Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS).

Moore’s passion for disabled students stems from her own experience with learning disabilities.

“I can’t memorize isolated information,” she said. “I’m a slow reader, very bad speller, terrible handwriting … And I was just lucky that [math] was something that just came easy to me.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in math from UC Santa Cruz, Moore began working as a curriculum developer at Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, acting as a liaison between the local high schools and the university.

“My job was to be there to help the teachers integrate the group work into their classrooms,” said the German-born mathematics instructor.

She then earned a master’s in math education from Stanford University, and was hired as a teacher at Oakland Technical High School.

“There was no cohesion; it was really chaotic,” Moore remembered. “And it was physically dangerous. I ran a SAT workshop during lunch, and people weren’t coming to it all of a sudden.”

The department chair warned her to lock her doors.

“Turns out, two doors down, … a substitute teacher was gang-raped. That’s bad,” Moore said. “But what’s worse is the administration consciously decided not to tell anyone.”

About 11 years ago, Moore landed here at City College. Alarcon sat on her hiring committee.

“We liked not only her teaching style but (also) her vision for the college,” Alarcon said. “She’s very effective at making the students do their own work and cooperate with one another.

“My model is you talk for a very short period of time and then they immediately do something,” Moore added.

About eight years ago, Alarcon proposed Moore incorporate peer tutoring into her classes as a part of the Gateway program. As the first math instructor to develop the program,  her experience at UC Berkeley helped her create a structure for using the tutors both in and out of the classroom.

Looking back on her career, she says helping people has been her biggest success.

“Just having that job where I can facilitate and help and identify people with learning disabilities,” Moore said. “We are changing lives.”

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