I just returned from TMC17 (Twitter Math Camp) in Atlanta, Georgia where I spent five glorious days surrounded by some of the best of the best in the mathematics world. As I sit and reflect on my time there I am consumed by a feeling of love and gratitude for the amazeballs mathematicians that have welcomed me as one of their own, and who I consider to be family!
My childhood was tumultuous to say the least. My parents had a plethora of issues. The most challenging being mental illness and alcoholism. These challenges created many problems that resulted in us moving so often that I went to fourteen schools. It wasn’t uncommon to find us squatting in abandoned homes with no running water or electricity. Many days I went to school hungry and unclean. As hard as they tried, my parents could not handle the stress that this lifestyle brought and after seven separations and divorce fillings they stopped trying. As an adult, I have a wonderful family and career. Even so, my husband and I have lived through oil industry busts and several rounds of bad economy. We have lived in three different states in order to go where he could find work. Always being the new person, and as a child, going to school as the dirty little transient kid in second hand clothes, I know a little something about not being accepted or belonging. Even after all these years, the feelings of inadequacy and unacceptance are something I struggle with. There are very few places I go, or people I associate with that make me feel welcome, accepted and valued. I have to work hard not to see myself through the lens of that dirty little transient kid in the corner, doing my best to be the paint on the wall.
It is with the deepest gratitude and a huge amount of awe that I find myself not only accepted and loved by this amazing community called #MTBoS, but also respected and valued as a professional. I graduated with a BS in Special Education in 1987 and taught for four years before deciding public school was not for me. I took about 15 years away and worked as the director of an early childhood center. Eleven years ago I returned to public education and realized that there was so much I needed to learn in order to be the best teacher I could be for my students. This led me seek my Masters in Teaching, Learning and Leadership with an emphasis on Elementary Mathematics Specialist. It was while I was seeking this degree that I was introduced to the MTBoS via Levi and TMC 14. I have only been a math nerd for three and a half years! I am a newbie, and while I have plenty of classroom experience, I still consider myself a novice as a mathematics teacher. In most societies, careers, and communities, I would not be seen as a viable contributor or member. It is with the deepest gratitude, humbleness, and awe that I can say; this is absolutely NOT the case at TMC or in the MTBoS community. I believe unequivocally that of all the communities I have ever been a part of that THIS one has been the most open, accepting, nurturing, inspiring, challenging and downright FUN that I have ever been a part of!
Where else can you go, whether virtually or in person and have professional and personal conversations with the likes of Max, Annie, Peg, Chris, Graham, Brian, Lisa, Bob, Andrew, Tina, John, Glenn, Hedge, Christopher, Malke, Sara, Tracy, Audrey, Llana, Steve, Edmund, Carl, Stephen, Sam, Carly, Madison, Julie, Levi, Sadie and so many more? These conversations, acceptance and relationships do not end the last day of Twitter Math Camp, but they extend to Twitter, Facebook, NCTM and other conference events. Every single organization, movement, company, or collective is only as awesome as its people. I am beyond blessed and eternally thankful that this fantabulous community exists and has taken me as one of its own. I value the learning and growth that this collective inspires me to pursue, but even more than that I cherish the acceptance, the love, the genuine sense of inclusion that I have with my fellow math nerds. To each of you I say thank you. I love learning, growing and becoming with you!