Comstock Park Public Schools, MI —
David Staublin has been known to poke fun at his diminished hearing. Having grown up in Charlevoix, he said, he attended "a lot of concerts" at Castle Farms, a '70s and '80s mecca for rock 'n' roll.
"And I think I remember some dad jokes when we were doing mechanical energy," senior Joseph Rauch said.
But it's Staublin's own energy that hooks his math students into believing they can solve for x with patience, confidence and organization.
Junior Kadarius Turner spoke up a couple times in a recent Algebra II class, as Staublin demonstrated on the overhead how to write recursive and explicit formulas for geometric sequences.
When Kadarius asked for help, Staublin responded with, "He's asking the question that someone else is afraid to ask." Then he calmly erased his work and went through it again for the entire class.
To a class visitor, Kadarius' question sounded self-assured, though he insisted "there are people in this class who get this way more than me."
"I definitely ask more questions now than I used to in math class," he said. "I don't just sit back and let him go on. ... I need to learn this to go on to things I want to do."
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First Love, Second Career
"He's definitely one of my favorite teachers," said senior Elmira LaPreze, a physics student. "He has a good sense of humor, which makes this class fun. And he doesn't just stand at his desk and talk the whole time."
Added Junior Madelyn VanVliet: "He makes math a lot less scary."
Those are kind endorsements for a guy for whom teaching is a second career. After graduating from Michigan Technical Institute with a master's in mechanical engineering, Staublin worked in the automotive industry, from the plant to research and development.
"For some students, math class is like picking up the dog poop: You don't have to like it, and it stinks, but you have to get it over with." -- math teacher David Staublin
When the economy tanked and he was laid off, he enrolled at Aquinas College.
"When you're 40 years old, you think 'Do I want to continue what I'm doing, or try something else?' And I wanted to teach."
Why? "The education that I'd had fit in with teaching math and physics," Staublin said. "And when I was in college, other students would come to me for help. I was also a graduate teaching assistant. I enjoyed it very much, and I thought it would be a noble career."
Staublin said he understands students' fears about the subject.
"In order to keep them interested and motivated you really have to build a strong relationship," he said. "I make very clear to some of them that I know this is not something they are going to use for the rest of their lives, but it's something they have to get through. That it's a gauntlet they have to go through, and I'm going to help them get through it."
And then comes the sense of humor again.
"I always equate it to this: I love my dogs. They poop outside every day and I have to go clean it up. For some students, math class is like picking up the dog poop: You don't have to like it, and it stinks, but you have to get it over with."
Math Skills = Life Skills
For Staublin, teaching math skills is the same as teaching life skills.
"These kids, they are, for all practical purposes, adults," he said. "I approach them as if we are working together, and that my job is to facilitate their learning. And it's that Golden Rule thing. I don't want to be talked down to. I want to be treated like an adult."
And he agrees with those who say they don't think they will ever use math again.
"When they tell me that I tell them, 'Most of the time you won't use this, but you will learn how to cope with confusion, and how to separate important information from non-important information. There's life skills you will learn in math that you will use even if you never use the math again.' And I'm OK with that."
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