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My Why: Amy Dawson

My Why: Amy Dawson

I recently read somewhere: “The road to success is paved with failures.” That sounds good to me. Somehow knowing that my next big screwup could potentially lead to all my dreams coming true is strangely comforting. After all, I’m no stranger to failure. You could say that failure got me to where I am today.

I had a horrible math teacher in high school. He taught nothing and required even less. I was awarded As and Bs because I was an athlete, and I was ignorantly thrilled with the arrangement.

Then came Algebra II and a different teacher. To say that I was lost would be an epic understatement. Day after day, I listened to what seemed like a foreign language, hearing everything and understanding nothing. It didn’t take long for me to be removed from Algebra II by the teacher.  He moved me across the hall to math lab. Yep, math lab. Everyone knew that math lab was for the students who couldn’t do basic math functions. We played games like Battleship and checkers, and honestly, I don't even remember doing any math at all. I think it was just a place to put us for an hour each day so that we didn't interrupt the classes that were busy learning real math.

By the end of my junior year, I had a full-fledged phobia of math. I avoided math like the plague. When I was required to do anything related to numbers, I panicked. In college, I selected my major based on how many (or how few) math courses I would have to take. Eventually, it didn't matter. I flunked out anyway. I couldn't even pass a developmental education math course. I felt like math had completely derailed my future.  

After three years of waiting tables and thinking that I was doomed for a life of menial jobs with no benefits, I decided to take another stab at college. I had to beg the dean of admissions to allow me to try again. The dean had little faith left in my ability and told me so. I left his office in tears, feeling like the loser that I had been told that I was, but this time something was different. I didn’t give up. I went back the next day and brought reinforcements. My step-brother (who was about to graduate with two degrees) assured the dean that I was ready to get serious about school. It took some convincing, but he eventually agreed to admit me. He put me on academic probation and said I had to pass 12 credit hours with a 2.5 GPA or better or I was out.

Once again, I found myself sitting in Dev Ed Math 100. But, this time, it was different. I was older (23 now), and I was determined. I knew that this was my shot to change the course of my future.

There was a TA who taught the class, and she was different than any other math teacher that I had ever had. She truly cared about whether I understood the material or not. She made sure that I got it. She had the ability to twist problems around in such a way that they made sense to me, and if I didn't get it, she didn't give up on me. She would work and work until she found another way to show me, and eventually, I understood. Not only did I understand, but I started to like math. I looked forward to that class, and I started tutoring other students. Before you knew it, I finished that semester with a 4.0.

Three years later, I graduated cum laude with a 3.97, and I invited that admissions dean to my graduation. I earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and even went on to work on a master’s degree in math education.

I fell in love with math after believing that I could not and would not ever be able to do it. Years later, I became an algebra teacher, and people from my past were stunned: “What? You? No way!” Yes, me. I did it. I did it because one teacher believed that anyone can learn. One teacher decided to go above and beyond to make sure that I understood. One teacher made the difference between me waiting tables forever and me being able to have a future with no limits.

That is “my why.” is also why I taught for many years and why I choose to continue to work in an industry that makes a difference in people’s lives every day. That is why I choose to work for a company that truly cares about creating and providing the absolute best solutions that give learners an opportunity to have a future with no limits—just like me.