Gatepost Interview: Dr. May Chaar Assistant Professor of Mathematics

(Photo by Darian O'Donnell)

Where did you grow up and what is your educational background?

I grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire. … I got my bachelor’s in mathematics education from the University of New Hampshire, and then I got my master’s in education and did some student teaching – a full year at the high school level. And then I really wanted to come back for some more advanced mathematics, and so I went back to the University of New Hampshire and got my doctorate in math education.

What classes do you teach?

College algebra and calculus 2.

What’s your work background?

I’ve been in school for forever. I took a year to do student teaching at the high school level, but otherwise, I’ve just been in academia. … I just got my doctorate in July, so this is very new. These are my first four weeks of being a professor. … I’ve actually had more experience in college than high school at this point because I’ve been a teaching assistant at the University of New Hampshire. So I’ve had experience teaching, but just one [course] a semester, so now balancing a bunch more students, a bunch more classes is different. I’ve of course been a little nervous, but it’s been great here.

Who are your role models?

I could go big, but I think because I see them day-to-day, many of my family members that I look up to. The way they balance both work and life, they give things 100 percent and being very passionate about the work they do, but also remembering what’s most important – family and being happy and giving to others.

What influenced you to become a teacher?

That’s a very good question. There wasn’t just one teacher who inspired me. I just really loved it. I thought I wanted to be an engineer, but I was working as a tutor as an undergraduate and I just really loved the experience. Then, once I found that I really loved that experience tutoring, I reflected back and realized how much I really enjoyed teaching even on a small scale, like teaching someone how to ride a bike. These were just things that I enjoyed. You get to work with all different kinds of people and be engaged with mathematics, which I love.

What would you consider some of your greatest accomplishments?

Right now, I’m fresh off of completing my doctorate and my dissertation, so that’s a big one in that it was a long time coming. It was six years of work, but it was worth it. Becoming a professor was my dream. … I did four years of undergrad, I did a year student teaching for my master’s, and my doctorate took six years. That’s my biggest professional accomplishment so far, just getting to this point. But then I appreciate all the mini-accomplishments when I have a nice class that goes well – if people seemed excited, that’s awesome. So those are the little ones I look for now.

What projects are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on trying to disseminate some of the results from my dissertation. That’s my main research goal. And then something that I haven’t started yet, because I’m focusing on teaching, but what I hope to get into is finding a way – and I’m not sure if this already exists – but to have the math majors here and the math teaching majors get involved in tutoring in the community, and in general, I’d really like to start engaging a connection between Framingham State and the community and getting involved in what projects currently exist here and see if I can add to them.

What advice would you give to students who want to become teachers?

… You can try and steal things you like, and try to avoid things you didn’t like in another teacher, but you have to be true to yourself. And the second thing would be while you’re here, learn as much content as you can, because I feel like … if you know the content, you can be flexible in your teaching, and you can move different ways as different ideas come up in the classroom.

How long do you imagine teaching here?

I’m hoping indefinitely! I’d love to be here a really long time. That’s the goal. I wanted in New England, I wanted to be in a state school, and everyone has been so welcoming here. I can’t really imagine, at least my first month, at a different place. This has just been awesome.

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