Teaching teachers is nothing new for Noah Heller. In fact, he most recently worked at Math For America where he mentored new math teachers and directed the development and expansion of a professional development program for hundreds of K–12 "master teachers" of math and science in New York City. He also spent years as a teacher himself, which continually informs his role as a teacher educator.
“There exist so many open questions in education,” Heller says. “Teaching teachers invites rich inquiry at the intersections of practice and theory, content and pedagogy, individuality and standardization, culture and power, all of which were constant themes that I grappled with as a high school teacher.”
Joining the Harvard Teacher Fellows (HTF) Program as a lecturer and a master teacher in residence (mathematics), Heller spoke about his dedication to math education and the appeal of HTF as an educator.
What inspired your transition into the role of teacher educator?
As a teacher educator, I get to collaborate with beginning teachers to pursue answers to tough questions that we must ask ourselves when working to create more equitable and engaging education opportunities for all of our students. I get to be forever a learner, reflecting on my own practice, engaging in critical conversations, and learning alongside teachers to support inspired teaching and learning.
Teaching is the most joyful way that I’ve found to work for social justice, and this is an opportunity to do so in an innovative space with amazing fellows and colleagues. I’m honored to contribute to reshaping teacher preparation, to support Harvard fellows to discover the rewards of teaching, and to create tools to support beginning and mentor teachers beyond HTF. I truly believe we’re poised to make a profound impact on teacher recruitment, training, and longevity in the profession.
What do you hope bring to HTF as it develops?
Harvard’s creation of HTF is a powerful endorsement of teaching, holding up careers in education as worthy of our most talented graduates. This endorsement brings a huge responsibility to which I hope to bring my deep belief in students, my love of mathematical inquiry and classroom practice, and my experience working with communities of beginning and mentor teachers dedicated to ongoing professional growth.
Math education – particularly that of girls – has been getting increasingly more attention. Why is it so important?
This is a huge question, but one part of the answer is that math is a gatekeeper to many future education and career opportunities and although female students perform on par, or better than their male counterparts from early childhood through university, women remain underrepresented in professional mathematics and many other math-related fields. It’s so important, that as researchers, policymakers, and teachers, we challenge patriarchy by confronting the social, cultural, emotional, and political contexts that promote this inequity.
What about Harvard/Cambridge/Boston are you most looking forward to?
I’m thrilled to be joining a community of extreme intellectual curiosity and rigor. As a healthy break from that rigor, I’m looking forward to jogging along the Charles and exploring the nearby mountains and coast.