As Jamaica prepares to observe Education Week which starts today and extends until Saturday (May 13), educators like Tanya Dawkins continue to ensure that the passion for learning is ignited among the student population.
Dawkins was recently named the 2023 National Mathematics Teacher of the Year.
She has been teaching for more than 21 years, of which she spent the first 17 years at Portland High School. Dawkins is now a teacher at the Port Antonio High School, and says that she has “always loved doing Maths”.
“When I was going to school, it was a subject that I could relate to and see the real-life application. It helps me to be able to reason out things; it develops my critical-thinking skills. When I am presented with a problem I am able to see the how and why,” Dawkins says.
“I thought about teaching because it creates an avenue to positively impact the lives of others. I love children, so what better way to impact lives; so here I am teaching Maths,” she added, sharing that she utilises various methods and approaches in the classroom.
“When teaching a particular topic, I try to allow my students to see the importance of learning Maths through real-life situations. For example, if the topic is about sales and we are focusing on discount, I would set up a store scenario with items such as clothing,” she said.
When I do this, my students can relate because when they go inside a store and discount is applied to a purchase, they know what is happening,” she said, adding further that, “I allow my students to discover things. So, instead of telling them that the formula for finding the circumference of the circle is this, I allow them to measure the circle and so they can formulate for themselves concepts and the definitions and the formula.”
Additionally, there is some amount of differentiation in her approach to teaching. According to Dawkins, she tries to cater for everyone as she acknowledges that there are different types of learners in the classroom.
Mathematics Coordinator for Region Two in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Shauna-Gay Young-Henry, describes Dawkins as an excellent Maths teacher. She says that during the period when the nominees for the National Mathematics Teacher of the Year were being observed and assessed, Dawkins stood out while conducting Maths classes.
According to Young-Henry, Dawkins met most if not all the criteria outlined on the nomination form. These include – teachers who consistently delivered quality Maths lessons and actively lift the profile of the subject by establishing Maths Clubs and/or organising Quiz Competitions in their schools.
She adds that Dawkins was in control of her class, and even the most fidgety child is able to sit and be engaged.
“When you talk about students’ engagement, when you talk about guiding questions in order to have students discover what it is that they should learn in a particular session, and how she makes Maths come alive, her lesson plans were on point, and she was consistent in her delivery,” says Young-Henry.
Meanwhile, Principal of the Port Antonio High School, Basil Graham, says he is proud and feels justified that one of the best Maths teachers to grace the halls of his school has received this coveted award.
“Ms. Dawkins, who has been at the Port Antonio High for only four years, has immersed herself fully in the activities of the Maths Department,” he said. He describes Dawkins as an affable person who enjoys the respect of her colleagues and students.
“In her classroom, she engenders a spirit of cooperation and learning, because the environment in her classes is geared towards the students,” he said
Dawkins is a graduate of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) where she completed a diploma in secondary education, majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. She also pursued a Bachelor of Education Degree at the University of West Indies (UWI) and Bachelor of Science Degree in Counselling from the International University of the Caribbean (IUC).
As the winner of the 2023 National Mathematics Teacher of the Year award, Dawkins received an all-expense-paid trip to the United States, sponsored by Jamaica National (JN), to participate in the annual National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference, a tablet, and a trophy.
The National Mathematics Teacher of the Year may also be required to give motivational talks and conduct Maths workshops.
Education Week will be observed under the theme ‘Advancing the Vision: Reigniting the Passion through Equitable and Inclusive Educational Opportunities’.
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