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FHS math teacher loves job


Brenda McGrath keeps her plate almost overflowing at Farragut High School — and that is the way she likes it.

McGrath teaches math, senior independent study, coaches the swim team, hosts Summer Insanity, is involved with the inaugural year of freshman “Boost Camp,” organizes and works the phone-a-thon fundraiser each year, has been involved from the ground up with the new Math Academy that will begin this year, and volunteers for just about anything else that needs to be done throughout the year.

With a to-do list such as this, it is almost redundant to say she loves her job.


“This begins my 27th year here and in all those years I have never walked in this building hating to come to my job. We have a wonderful family here, we have wonderful students and we have a great time here,” she said.

McGrath said she has always wanted to be a teacher.

“All during high school I wanted to be a teacher. I was in the band and I was a majorette but I also taught twirling to students.

“When I was in high school I thought the only thing I was going to teach was English and that I was going to sit around all day and quote Shakespeare to all my students. I do have an English degree and a math minor, but the high schools only, at that time, wanted math teachers. I was selected as a math teacher and I went back to college to take more math classes and have a math major,” she said.

McGrath has seen many changes during her tenure, but she said the most prominent change is technology.

“Technology started with the calculator, but has since spread, in our classrooms to the use of, in our department, the wide use of smartboards, projectors and computers,” she said.

Students have changed during McGrath’s time as a teacher as well.

“We can’t stand up there and tell them ‘this is what needs to be done.’ We have to show them what needs to be done and demonstrate it. The years have long passed since a student would want to learn something because a teacher said so. They need to understand more and have hands-on experience in why something needs to be done and then they jump on that bandwagon real quick as soon as they can see it.

Not only has McGrath been instrumental in setting up the new Math Academy, but in setting up the senior independent study class as well.

“When it first began, the very first year, I was working with another teacher and we had to farm out students to other teachers who had planning periods because we had so many students who were doing it. It became a burden on the other teachers to try and keep up with students on their planning period so we narrowed it down to 35 students per teacher.

“That could be a total of 140 students. But now there is only me doing it so I can only take 70.”

When asked what she felt the class offered students as opposed to any other elective, McGrath said, “I used to say it offered them to work on a project of their choice. It would be the only class in high school where you got to choose what you wanted to learn. But now that I have shifted it more toward community service, what it offers the student now is the opportunity to give back to the community, a way to learn how to give back to the community, a chance to learn that there is a need to give back to the community, and to learn how to help and deal with others who are less fortunate.”

This upcoming school year will be McGrath’s 26th year coaching the FHS swim team. Not only has she led the team to numerous championships, she has increased the rigor required to letter in the sport.

“Before [I came] they could pretty much just put their toe in the water and they got a letter, and I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.”

Now a student must attend either 80 percent of the practices and make two state cuts for times or they can attend 90 percent of the practices and make one state cut for time. You can’t just stroll in and say ‘Here I am and I deserve a letter,’ because I think that diminishes the letter to those that really earn it,” she said.

This school year will mark the innagural year of the Math Academy and McGrath will give just as much of herself to this project as she does to everthing else.

“Students and parents alike want to have students involved in something that has a good long term goal and a valuable outcome. We want to make it as valuable as possible to all students that are involved. We are taking it slow so we can evaluate as we go and see if there is anything we need to change,” she said.

 

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