Chalkboard Champion and Arizona math educator Joaquin Bustoz, Jr.

There are many examples of brilliant educators who have offered their talents to improve high school instruction. One such educator was Joaquin Bustoz, Jr., a university math professor from Arizona who established an advanced placement program for high school students.

Joaquin was born on December 30, 1939, in Tempe, Arizona, one of five children born to parents Joaquin, Sr., and Ramona. His parents, who were farm workers, also worked for their local schools, and were so revered that the Tempe Unified School District even named one of their elementary school after the couple.

In 1962, Joaquin earned his bachelor’s degree in math from Arizona State University. Continuing his education at that institution, he earned his master’s degree the following year, and in 1967 he completed the requirements for his doctorate degree. After earning his doctorate, Joaquin became a professor of mathematics at the University of Cincinatti, where he taught from 1969 to 1976.

In 1985, Joaquin founded the Summer Math-Science Honors program for high school students under the auspices of the University of Arizona. Still in place today, the curriculum offers an advanced placement program that provides opportunities for under-represented students to study university mathematics and science while still enrolled in high school. He also devoted many hours to Native American students on the nearby Navajo and Pima Reservations. For his outstanding work Joaquin has garnered numerous awards. For example, President Bill Clinton awarded Joaquin the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, Engineering in 1996.

Sadly, this talented and dedicated educator was killed on August 13, 2003, in an auto accident. He is interred at Double Butte Cemetery in Tempe.

You can learn more about this outstanding chalkboard champion on the website of the Mathematical Association of America by clicking MAA. You can also learn more about the advanced placement program he founded at ASU Summer Math Program.


Harry Dame: Veteran Educator and Talented Coach

Harry A. Dame, 1920-1921

Harry A. Dame, 1920-1921

In American history, there are many notable examples of talented and dedicated educators who make their mark on the profession. This is certainly the case of Harry Dame, a public high school teacher who made his biggest mark as an athletic coach.

Harry Dame was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. As a youngster, he attended Lynn Classical High School, graduating in 1898. After his graduation, he enrolled in Springfield Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he played quarterback for the football team. Harry completed his college studies in 1900, and then he enrolled in courses at both Tufts College in Medford, Massachusetts, and Boston University.

After earning his college degree, Harry accepted his first teaching position as an athletic director at Waltham High School, in Waltham, Massachusets. Four years later Harry transferred to  the Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts, where he coached football and baseball. Some time later, he was hired to teach mathematics at nearby Everett High School. In 1909, Harry left Everett to return Waltham High School. In addition to serving as the athletic director, the veteran educator coached football and basketball.

Under Harry’s expert coaching, Waltham High’s football team finished the season undefeated in 1915. Imagine his amazement when the team was pitted against Harry’s former school, Everett High School, for the right to play Central High School in Detroit for the National Scholastic Football Championship. Unfortunately, Everett defeated Waltham 6–0 before a crowd of 12,000 spectators, an record for attendance at a high school football game in Massachusetts at the time.

Later that same year, Harry accepted a position as physical education teacher at Lynn English High School in Lynn, Massachusetts. There Harry led his football team in play against an All-Stars team composed of college and former high school players. To Harry’s dismay, the Waltham team won the game with a score of 24–6.

In the summer of 1917, when World War I was in full swing, Harry took a group of students from Lynn English to work on Sorosis Military Farm in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as part of an on-the-job program developed by an executive from the A. E. Little Co., who was also the owner of the farm. The program combined farm work with military training in an effort to increase the boys’ interest in farm work, provide them with military instruction, and assist in war production. Harry resigned from Lynn English on September 25, 1917.

From 1919 to 1922, Harry was employed as the athletic director and a coach at Western Reserve University. In addition, the veteran educator coached baseball from 1919 to 1920, basketball from 1919 to 1922, football from 1919 to 1921, and track from 1919 to 1920. 

Harry later worked at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, until his retirement in 1928.

This chalkboard champion passed away in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 7, 1933.

Katherine Kelley: High School Geometry Teacher and Beauty Pageant Winner Miss Nevada

LVI2301-K-240x300Many professional educators have earned acclaim in areas outside of the classroom. Such is the case with Katherine Kelley, a high school geometry teacher at Mojave High School in Clark County, Nevada, who is also a beauty pageant winner.

Katherine was born in Madisonville, Kentucky, on December 9, 1994. As a young teenager and student at Madisonville North Hopkins High School, she won her hometown pageant in 2009, garnering the title of Hopkins County Junior Miss. She also been an avid student of the piano since the age of ten.

After her high school graduation, Katherine enrolled in the University of Alabama, where she earned her bachelors degree in international relations, cum laude. Following her college graduation, she enrolled in a masters program at the University of Nevada. While there, she was crowned Miss Summerlin (2015), and in June of that same year she captured the title of Miss Nevada. With a GPA of 4.0, Katherine was also honored with an Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. 

Despite impressing pageant judges and the audience with her classical piano performance, Katherine has said, “I don’t think I want to be a professional musician. I am a teacher in North Las Vegas. I’ve always had a love of mathematics, and I want to continue teaching it. So many students don’t love it, and I want to inspire them with it.” Her devotion to her profession is obvious. Her pageant platform was “Every Day Counts: Improving Public School Attendance.” Through this platform, Katherine intends to work towards minimizing the challenges disadvantaged children face as they progress through the school system. “I enjoy spending the day in the classroom instilling a love of mathematics in my students,” Katherine expresses. “My dream job would be to become secretary of education in Washington, D.C.,” she says.

Katherine’s win as Miss Nevada qualified her to enter the Miss America Pageant last September. In that competition, the crown went to Miss Georgia, Betty Cantrell.

Robert Parris Moses: Civil rights activist, algebra teacher, and Chalkboard Hero

New York City math teacher Robert Parris Moses was a legendary figure during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. He was the courageous teacher who orchestrated the black voter-registration efforts and the Freedom Schools made famous during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. This heroic educator’s revolutionary work, which was not without risk to life and limb, transformed the political power structure of entire communities.

Now, nearly forty years later, Moses is advocating yet another transformational change: the Algebra Project. Moses asserts that a deficiency in math literacy in poor neighborhoods puts impoverished children at an economic disadvantage when it comes to being able to compete successfully for jobs in the 21st century, and that this disenfranchisement is as debilitating as lack of personal liberties was prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

His solution is to organize people, community by community, school by school, to overcome the achievement gap and give impoverished children 3127[1]the tools they need to claim their share of economic enfranchisement. Moses’s book, Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project written with fellow Civil Rights worker Charles E. Cobb, Jr., can be found easily and reasonably-priced on amazon. A fascinating read for anyone who is interested in Moses’s story, either past or present. A chapter about this remarkable teacher will also be included in my second book, entitled Chalkboard Heroes: Twelve Courageous Teachers and Their Deeds of Valor.  This book is also available on amazon; click on this link to view: Chalkboard Heroes.

Amanda Curtis: High School Math Teacher and Former Member of Montana’s House of Representatives

5407fcc86f307.preview-620Many talented educators also distinguish themselves as successful politicians. A wonderful example of this is Montana’s Amanda Morse Curtis, a high school math and physics teacher who has also served in the Montana House of Representatives.

Amanda was born September 10, 1979. Her working-class childhood was anything but idyllic. When she was only four years old, her parents divorced. Amanda watched her mother struggle with mental illness. The family was poor, and at times, they had to live without utilities and rely on food stamps in order to eat. Amanda saw several members of her extended family battle with drugs and alcohol. Two weeks before her high school graduation, Amanda’s younger brother killed himself while playing Russian roulette. He was only 16.

Amanda knew that education was her ticket out of poverty. After graduating from Skyview High School, she attended Montana Technology University of the University of Montana, earning her bachelor’s of science in biology in 2002. She then attended the University of Montana Western where she earned her teaching credential.

After earning her degree, Amanda taught math and physics at Butte Central Catholic High School from 2004-2006. From 2006-2009, she taught math at Helena Middle School, and since 2009, she has taught math at Butte High School. She also served as an executive board member for the Butte Teachers Union from 2011-2012.

Amanda began her political career when she was elected to the Montana House of Representatives on November 6, 2012. Representing Butte, Montana, in House District 76, the freshman lawmaker succeeded Democrat Jon Sesso, who had been elected to the Montana Senate. While in office, she was assigned to the committees for business and labor, human services, and local government. She sponsored the Hire Montana First Act to create more jobs in her home state, and she fought for increased benefits for volunteer fire fighters and a repeal of state legislation against the gay community. She was also outspoken about gun violence, calling for background checks and better gun-control measures to be enacted. Naturally, Amanda has expressed her belief in the value of a good education. “As a high school teacher, I know the importance of investing in our students,” she said at a 2014 rally at the University of Montana. “Education is a path forward for better paying jobs and securing our economic future,” said continued.

Amanda met her husband, Kevin Curtis, at a rock-climbing store when he was training to be a speed skater. They live in a miner’s cottage in Butte with their cat, Geoff, and their dogs, Billie and Rick. The couple does not have any children.