M. Alejandra Sorto is a Honduran American born and raised in Tegucigalpa. Following the footsteps of both of her teacher educator parents, Marta Bueso and Rodolfo Sorto, she attended the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, Francisco Morazán to become a secondary mathematics teacher. Short of completing that degree, she earned a Fulbright scholarship to attend the University of Texas at El Paso where she completed a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science and a Master’s degree in Statistics. Still desiring to become a mathematics educator, she continued her studies in the Mathematics Department at Michigan State University where she earned a second Master’s degree in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Mathematics with a dissertation study in Statistics Education. While finishing her doctoral degree, she worked full time at Montgomery College Rockville, Maryland teaching Calculus, Statistics, and Mathematics for future teachers. In 2005, she joined the faculty at Texas State University Mathematics Department where she has developed her full career as a mathematics instructor and a mathematics educator researcher.
Her primary research activities involve the design, development, and analysis of instruments that measure constructs related to teacher knowledge, quality of instruction, and, discipline-based self-efficacy to teach. These instruments are used in the context of teachers’ knowledge of multilingual students, international comparison studies settings, and in the area of statistics/algebra teacher education. She has worked with governments of Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and South Africa to help improve the preparation of teachers in mathematics and develop educational standards. In 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded her a CAREER research grant to investigate the Mathematics instruction of multilingual learners in the state of Texas. More recently, she collaborates with a team of researchers from Texas State and Portland State lead by Dr. Melhuish to design, validate, and disseminate a formative assessment tool that includes teaching routines capturing opportunities for equitable access to mathematics content and practices (NSF DRL-1814114).
Some refer to teaching as an art, the art of carefully and effectively empowering others with knowledge. Alejandra believes one of the reasons it is considered an art is because a teacher needs to orchestrate and integrate multiple aspects simultaneously; including some related to content, others related to pedagogy, and others related to students. Growing up in Honduras, she often heard people say that you have to have ‘vocación’ to become a teacher. There, teaching is considered a vocación because of the human and social justice aspect of the profession. You become a teacher because you have the passion, patience, and love; but above all, the great desire and strong urge to help students to become educated. This strong urge to help is coupled with the belief that all students can learn.
She believes teaching is an art, but the best artists in the teaching profession are those that have the vocación. The deep knowledge of the content, the ability to unpack the complexity of concepts to the appropriate level of the student utilizing the appropriate tools according to the nature of the concept been taught, from simply powerful explanations to a well-prepared class activity where class discussion and technology are integrated, are necessary – but not sufficient – aspects of good teaching. Teaching is also about carefully listening and attending to students as learners, giving the opportunity to all students to explore, discover, and wonder; and having the patience to understand their own thinking with the purpose of guide them towards the main instructional goal.
Alejandra has successfully supervised 12 mathematics education dissertations and three Honors undergraduate mathematics education theses. Mathematics topics range from undergraduate mathematics such as Calculus and Introduction to Advanced Mathematics to school mathematics such as geometry, algebra, and statistics. Students have investigated complex constructs such as pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge for teaching mathematics in multilingual diverse classrooms, teaching with dynamic software, learning trajectories, writing in mathematics classrooms, among others.
In terms of service, Alejandra has led the mathematics and statistics education communities by holding several leadership roles. She was a member of the Board of Directors of TODOS: Mathematics for ALL and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Board of Trustees for the Mathematics Education Trust (MET), and she served as the Chair of the Program Committee for 2018 TODOS Conference as well as a past member of Program Committee for 2016 TODOS Conference, Currently, she is a Co-Editor of TODOS journal: Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics (TEEM).
In addition, she was a former Vice-President of the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE), Editor of Proceedings of the 2015 Satellite conference of the IASE in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Co-Editor of Proceedings of the 10th International Congress on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS10), Kyoto, Japan. She serves as an Associate Editor of the Statistics Education Research Journal (SERJ).Within Texas State University, she serves on multiple committees at the departmental and college level. The latest challenge in terms of leadership is at the institutional level, she has been appointed to serve as the Co-Chair of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) whose theme is undergraduate research.
Hispanic Heritage Month means a celebration of who we are as Latino Americans. It is the space and time where we are somehow free to express our Latinidad, to celebrate the heterogeneity of our backgrounds, and to show others the beauty of our culture and language. It is time for me to dance, because that is when I feel free.