Observing Port Antonio High Mathematics Teacher, Mrs Tanya Dawkins as she teaches her students, it seems she has found the formula for making the subject relatable to her pupils. From using games and other interactive formats, she recently disclosed to a visiting media team that she has been finding interesting ways to present material to improve appreciation for the often-dreaded subject.
According to the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) and The University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus trained teacher, her expressive nature helped her to cop the coveted award to become the eighth champion since 2013, and one can easily see that she has a commanding presence in and out of the classroom.
Her passion for teaching and love for mathematics blossomed while at Titchfield High school and her aim since then has been to make the “next generation” understand the relevance of mathematics.
“I want to motivate the students who I interact with and I want them to see that they also can accomplish anything that they set their minds to as long as they put the time and effort into accomplishing it,” she said.
Her favourite strands to teach include measurement and consumer arithmetic, which are both relatable to everyday life. “I like teaching these topics because they are so real,” she said, while explaining how areas such as discounts are taught to position a student to be able to make informed decisions so that they can’t be easily taken advantage of.
“I always encourage them to be able to work out their discounts because that way they know what exactly they are supposed to do,” she added.
Mrs Dawkins teaches from grade eight (second form) to eleven (fifth form), and while she enjoys her job, she acknowledges that it’s not easy.
She recalls a challenging time when students were returning to face-to-face classes after being forced online for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the transition back to that modality was challenging because most students did not have online access and had fallen behind in their work. However, “we pulled through and I think at that point the students realized that ‘Miss’ cared,” she said.
“I think the level of patience and interest that I showed the students as they completed their SBA’s and ensuring that all the students who were going to be doing the subject were on target with their SBA’s, was a very memorable moment,” she added.
Mrs Dawkins was recommended for the Ministry of Education and Youth’s Mathematics Teacher of the Year Award by her colleagues, led by the Head of the Mathematics Department, Ms Juleen Roper. “Mrs Dawkins is a hard-working, dedicated teacher and the way how she prepares and executes her lessons shows me how passionate she is about Mathematics and her students,” Ms Roper said.
Her colleagues believe Mrs Dawkins is making a lasting impression on her students, with at least one former student even going as far to tell his mother that he wants her to be his teacher until he graduates from the school.
Grade 10 student, Kayseigh Jones, agreed that Mrs Dawkins has become a standout teacher, noting that she ensures every student understands at least one thing from the day’s lesson before she moves on. “I can recall a time where she postponed a test because someone didn’t understand something,” she said.
Mrs Dawkins’ work ethic and rapport were also noted by the Ministry’s Cluster-based Mathematics Specialist for Region 2 (Portland, St Thomas and St Mary), Mrs Suzette Simpson McNeil, shortly after taking on Port Antonio High in 2021 as one of the schools she coached.
Mrs McNeil noted that “the passion she has is different from most people, and after the first term, I said she is definitely one of the teachers we have to recommend from the region for the award.”
Mrs McNeil said, with the award now in the bag, the next step is to prepare Mrs Dawkins to become a Master Teacher. In this role she will be trained to build the capacity of other teachers in Portland and the region.
As part of her winning package from JN Bank, Mrs Dawkins received a trophy as well as membership to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)- the world’s largest mathematics education organisation, based in Virginia in the United States of America. This year she will join the other members of NCTM for a teacher conference where she will have an opportunity to share her ideas and practices and also gain new insights.
For Mrs Dawkins, Mathematics remains important to society, being applicable to almost everything. With only 37 per cent of students receiving a passing grade for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate mathematics in 2022, going forward, her vision is to have more collaboration among maths teachers to improve the outcomes of students in her region and the entire country.
”Mathematics can be fun for the students so as teachers let us come together and work to increase the passing rate for our subject,” she said.