It is my opinion that many great things are happening every day in Manchester Public Schools that go unreported. Recently, I had the privilege of taking Cathy Mazzotta's portrait as Manchester 2012 Teacher of the Year in my photo studio. Schools in Manchester were starting up again, and I asked Cathy if she would be willing to talk about her teaching career for Manchester Patch. She agreed, and I met her a few days after the first official day of school, at Manchester High School for an interview.
Timothy Becker: Cathy, when did you decide to become a teacher?
Cathy Mazzotta: I grew up in East Hartford. I was a good student, and my parents were helpful in encouraging me to take honors classes. Going to college was not the norm of my family. I received a scholarship to the Hartford College for Women and earned an associates degree. That is when I decided to become a teacher. I then went on to UConn.
Timothy Becker: What made you decide on teaching as a career?
Cathy Mazzotta: I wanted to help high school students through the same struggles and pressures that I survived. I like to learn.
Timothy Becker: Why math?
Cathy Mazzotta: I love math. I was studying both foreign language and math. I chose to focus on math.
Timothy Becker: What did you do after receiving your four year degree from UConn?
Cathy Mazzotta: After graduating from UConn I received a job offer as a teaching assistant in the UConn math department. I taught two undergraduate math classes per semester, while I was taking two master's classes. After two years I received a master's degree.
Timothy Becker: Where did you start your teaching career?
Cathy Mazzotta: I was hired at Rockville High School to be their AP (advanced placement) calculus teacher. I was there for 13 years and taught everything that they offered in math. I also was math department head for six years.
Timothy Becker: What brought you to Manchester High School and what are your duties?
Cathy Mazzotta: I was hired in 2005 as Math Department Chair. I am still in that position. I work with the 20 math teachers at Manchester High School and I also work with the 7th and 8th grade algebra teaches at Illing Middle School.
Timothy Becker: Do you have a say in the MHS math curriculum?
Cathy Mazzotta: We are now starting to implement the national common core state standards. This is mandated curriculum for high school mathematics adopted by the CT Deptartment of Education. We have a curriculum team that met this summer to put together resources for teachers. We are working on teams to share teaching strategies for the new curriculum. Our focus is on grade nine with the other grades being phased-in over the next few years. Our current standardized testing will be changing in 2015 to a national assessment.
Timothy Becker: Students are often afraid of math or struggle with learning math. How do you handle reluctant math learners?
Cathy Mazzotta: My big philosophy is to make every student feel significant. They learn to trust me and themselves. A little extra support can make a big difference. They are less afraid to try, and they know that I will be there. That becomes the culture of the classroom. I tell my students that you don't have to love math, I love it enough for both of us.
Timothy Becker: Why is it important to understand math?
Cathy Mazzotta: Math is everywhere. It's figuring out a percentage discount in a clothing store or a stock market analysis. We all need some type of foundation so that we have choices later. Regardless of your career choice you need a foundation in math.
Timothy Becker: Do you have any thoughts about ?
Cathy Mazzotta: I love it! Manchester High School is it's own world. It is not just a school. We have great programs and great kids. The things that teachers and students accomplish here are amazing.
Timothy Becker: Can you share your thoughts on the future of math instruction?
Cathy Mazzotta: A lot in teaching is changing. Technology is playing a bigger role every year. Investigation and problem solving are replacing the lecture and note taking. Math has become much more participating than sitting back.
Timothy Becker: What do you think about being chosen as 2012 teacher of the year?
Cathy Mazzotta: It is a true honor to represent the great educators in this town.