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Shareef Bacchus, middle school teacher, Athens, Georgia

 

Shareef Bacchus
Middle school teacher
Athens, Georgia
 
Shareef Bacchus
April 2002

Shareef Bacchus, a 2000 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, was educated in the British Caribbean, where he begin his career as a high school mathematics teacher of advanced courses, including calculus. Bacchus's education also includes master's and specialist's degrees from the University of Georgia. He taught at a teacher-training college in St. Lucia. He currently teaches mathematics at Hilsman Middle School in Athens, Georgia, where he has taught since 1990. At Hilsman, he teaches gifted seventh- and eighth-grade students. Hilsman Middle School is atypical, in that it serves students who have a wide array of abilities. Hilsman's school population therefore does not reflect a normal distribution but rather a distribution that is more rectangular in shape.

Bacchus is very proud of his MathCounts Team and the math club that he has developed. The Hilsman Math Club includes 63 students. Feeder elementary schools asked him to offer a program for gifted elementary students. This program began with 5 elementary students and has grown to 25 students. Parents bring their children to the 7:30 a.m. program before the regular elementary school day begins. The MathCounts Team is always one of Georgia's best in the state competition, often finishing in the top five.

His teaching philosophy includes high expectations and demands that he places on students. In his words, he "does not put blocks on what students can learn." His emphasis is decidedly mathematical, challenging students to solve problems in different ways and to explore mathematical ideas. When a student finds an original way, a method that Bacchus had not considered, to solve a problem, Bacchus acknowledges and honors that contribution, adding, "I like very much what you are doing. May I use it later with other students?" His philosophy is wrapped in his statement and perspective that "One shouldn't be satisfied with mediocrity." He continuously takes in-service courses to upgrade his education so that he can better meet the needs of his students. As he puts it, "You must be prepared to continually satisfy the students' curiosity." He sees himself as a perpetual learner.

 

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