Fellow Profile: Zach Dean

Zach Dean
  • G-TEAMS Cohort: 2011-12
  • Graduate Program: Biomedical Engineering
  • Teacher Partner: Liz Escarcega-Tapia
  • School: Pistor Middle School
  • Grade level: 7-8
  • Topics: Pre-Algebra and Algebra I

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes, which can be made, in a very narrow field." - Niels Bohr

This quote from Niels Bohr is important to me and to my work in the classroom because students (including myself, sometimes) are often discouraged by failure. It is very important to see failures as a positive-they are lessons that teach us what not to do in the future. Learning from their mistakes is a significant step that the students take toward getting better at math and science.

Research Interests

Zach Dean is a graduate student in the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Arizona. His research interests are in the area of cancer, wound healing, biomedical device design, and micro- and nano- technology. Zach has received his bachelors degree in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona and masters degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Arizona.

Classroom Activities

Zach is working at Pistor Middle School with Liz Escarcega-Tapia. Zach’s goals for his classroom involvement include:

Lessons Learned

Working with students at Pistor and observing Mrs. Escarcega-Tapia has greatly improved my ability to communicate mathematical ideas as well as improve my ability to hold the attention of a group. Previously, much of my teaching was done in a laboratory setting, so learning to make lessons interesting and different has been a big focus of my time at Pistor.

For example, my first lesson was a Powerpoint of my research, although the material was geared toward middle school students. The kids seemed interested; however, not many of them remembered my lesson down the road (suggesting that the lesson had not set in). Weeks later, though, I was not using Powerpoint and I was still holding the kids’ attention when writing on the white board. In addition, I noticed that the kids were retaining my lessons weeks after I had explained them. One example of this occurred when the class was working with fractions and percents. The class was struggling to understand questions that asked (for example), “Fifty Is what percent of 750?” I explained to the students that they should think of the problem as a vocabulary problem because each word in the question corresponds to a math symbol. For example, the word, “of,” corresponds to a multiplication sign. Thankfully, when a similar problem came up, the kids still recalled my lesson weeks later.

I have also been able to improve my ability to get the students to focus on their work in the classroom. One example of this involves my actions while the students do their class work. When I first arrived at Pistor, I would walk around with a portable white board and give the students examples or strategies that they could use to figure out a problem (I would never give them the answer, though). I found later on that if I actively work on the problems myself while the students are working on the problems (in addition to helping them with their work), then the students are more motivated to finish their work in a more focused and timely manner.

Teaching Materials