Jaime developed a love for learning as well as for math through his mother. An educator herself, she inspired a passion for numbers and patterns by assisting with Jaime’s homework and providing additional “homework” and learning opportunities throughout the summer. Jaime initially wanted to study science and medicine; however, his love of mathematics and passion for helping others drove him to education, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Loyola University Chicago. Following graduation, Jaime began his teaching career at Loyola University’s High School Summer Bridge program. Here he began his work teaching students of color from public schools. The following fall, he was hired to work in the Chicago Public School system. During that time, the early 90’s, Jaime was part of a collaborative program between Chicago Public Schools and the University of Illinois at Chicago called the College Preparatory Mathematics Program (CPMP). The goal of the program was to accelerate underrepresented students who were below grade level mathematically and give them the opportunity to take AP Calculus in their senior year. The lessons created were discovery based, allowing students to learn mathematics through activities and tasks. This innovative method, now customary, was a drastically different approach to teaching mathematics. After 11 years in the Chicago Public School system, Jaime moved on to Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL, where he is currently teaching. While at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Jaime has continued to focus his teaching on students who struggle with mathematics, primarily students of color. As a minority, Jaime feels that it is his responsibility to help students believe that they have the ability to “do the math”. After 30 years in the classroom, Jaime’s drive to provide each of his students the ability to feel confident and successful in mathematics continues.
During his career, the use of technology in mathematics has had an impact on Jaime. The graphing calculator was introduced into math education to provide students access to further studies in mathematics and enable them with the ability to deepen their learning through the use of multiple representations. While at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Jaime has incorporated graphing calculator technology in his classroom. Students that once struggled in class now have access to reinforce their learning with the use of graphing calculators. This became part of Jaime’s action research as he completed his Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at National-Louis University. With his growing interest in the use of graphing technology, Jaime would share his knowledge, experience, and activities with colleagues at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Having the encouragement and support of his colleagues and department chair, Jaime then began to share his presentations at local math conferences. Through these opportunities, Jaime became trained as a Teacher Teaching with Technology (T3) Instructor through Texas Instruments. Jaime has presented at several local and national mathematics conferences, with his research focused on activities and lessons to assist the “reluctant learner” of mathematics, as well as standardized test preparation using technology.
For Jaime, every day in the classroom provides a unique and new experience to explore with his students. There are daily expectations of what his students will accomplish each day; however, as a teacher, he feels he also needs to have the experience and courage to appreciate when well-designed lesson plans go astray. He explains, “As diligently as we may plan our classes or expect them to progress, it may take an unexpected turn, in a favorable way.” Jaime believes these moments allow teachers to reflect and improve on their lessons, which will provide students an even better experience.
Jaime thinks education at the K-12 level is an opportunity to help shape the community through an academic setting. He advises future K-12 educators, “As educators, our work at the ground level helps guide our future generations. The moments you will have in the classroom, making a difference in a student’s life are memorable ones. It is a lifelong journey that continues to grow with changing times but an opportunity to shape and mold through your experiences and knowledge and the ability to incorporate them in the classroom.” He adds, “You have to be passionate about the work and willing to make the commitment to your students on a daily basis. It is a challenging but rewarding journey.”
Jaime sees that our classrooms are as diverse as ever at this time, and believes that as educators, we need to provide an equitable learning experience in mathematics for all of our students, in all of our schools. For him, instruction needs to be dynamic. Jaime feels that, “As teachers, we must provide students with relevant hands-on learning activities that allow them to experience the mathematics, rather than to listen or watch the teacher do the math.” He encourages teachers, “Do not be afraid to take chances and try something new. There are many new and exciting digital applications available to implement in your classroom. Step out of your comfort zone and try one.” He believes we should all try to step out of the routine of teaching the textbook from cover to cover.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to share my culture and traditions with others. It is also a time to celebrate the contributions of Latinos in our society, communities and especially in our schools. HHM is also a chance to honor who we are, as Latinos. However, celebrating hispanidad should not only be for one month out of the year; it should be a year-round recognition of who we are and where we come from. We should also not forget the contributions of our predecessors, the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas. The mathematics they used shaped their respective civilizations for hundreds of years and must not be forgotten.”