When Mathematics Department faculty member Rebecca McCormick was in high school, she struggled a bit as math concepts started to get more abstract, until she mastered the tools that helped her understand and enjoy her classes.

“I think it helps me as a math teacher,” she says. “My general philosophy is that I meet each student where they are and we move forward from there. The students who have a fear of math or believe they’re not good at math often see math as a series of steps they need to memorize, versus being able to step back and see the bigger concept. Then, they can recognize that they have the tools to approach a particular problem.”

To learn math, students have to do math, McCormick says. “Oftentimes, we’re jumping right in, giving students a little time to think on their own, then working together so they can share ideas and ask questions. So they’re learning by putting ideas together. In the real world, you have a scenario, and you have to figure out what information you can pull from it, to ask yourself what you know and how you can apply your understanding.”

Milton students are “pretty amazing,” McCormick says. “They come to us with a huge range of interests and passions and things they’ve already done in their lifetimes that, quite frankly, blow me away,” she says. “They’re super motivated and driven by the learning process. I think most of them just really like to learn. So often, they teach me something along the way, whether it’s about my subject or something new to me, like parts of their culture and traditions.”

McCormick teaches Honors Advanced Functions, Honors Algebraic Concepts and Algebraic Concepts, a mix of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. She also recently completed her yoga instructor certification and leads a yoga class for students—which fulfills a physical education requirement—as well as sessions for her faculty and staff peers. In the Math Department, she is the course group leader for the algebraic concepts group, and also serves as a mentor for new math teachers in the University of Pennsylvania teaching residency master’s program.

“It’s so exciting to work with new teachers for a variety of reasons. They bring energy and a fresh set of eyes to what we’re doing,” McCormick says. “It’s so interesting to work with them as they’re starting to figure out how to be the teacher that they want to be. I learn as I work with them, too, and it allows me to reexamine what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”

This year, McCormick is taking part in a cohort of Milton teachers who are evaluating their own grading practices and sharing ideas to make sure students are assessed equitably. Faculty over the summer read Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman, which explores ideas about assessment practices that more meaningfully demonstrate each students’ knowledge of a subject.

Now in her 13th year at Milton, McCormick has also been a house head in Millet House and dorm faculty in Hallowell House. The New Hampshire native was teaching at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire, before coming to Milton, but teaching wasn’t her original plan. As an undergraduate at Lafayette College, McCormick majored in chemical engineering; she worked in the field for nine years before becoming a teacher. A longtime practitioner of yoga, McCormick decided to get her instructor certification last year.

For the Milton students in her yoga class, McCormick views the sessions as an opportunity for them to slow down and look inward, a break—with physical benefits—from the fast-paced environment on campus.