She dreams of RVing around the US, hanging out in Yellowstone for a bit, and finding places to play in the water along the way.
In late April, Nancy Reeves, VLACS adjunct math instructor and mother of twin VLACS 2020 graduates, speaks to me from her new condo in Utah where she’s hunkered down until it’s safer to travel.
“I’m not supposed to be in Utah, but I am,” she laughs. “When the twins decided they wanted to be here for college--we have some family out here--we planned in January that I would come out here with the kids and find a place for them to live. We were going to go back and forth. My daughter stayed with me out here. I haven’t seen my husband and son since February,” she says. “It’s been an adventure.”
Reeves’s adventuresome spirit, borne from years of travels with her family, leaves her well-equipped to handle the challenge although she misses her family. She tells me about some of her travels.
“We are an outdoors type family,” she says, “and we love exploring the country.” They ski during the winter and camp year round, and the kids “love it.” She recalls finding factors and prime numbers on the backs of chairlifts with her kids, and her daughter’s distress when the chairs in the lift were in the wrong order.
It is a life of constant wonder, constant experiences, and constant learning.
“We love the national parks,” she says. Yellowstone and the Tetons are favorites. “There have been years where we have camped six straight weeks.” She tells me about a three week trip to Yellowstone and the Dakotas a few years back. “We drove back and pulled right into Danforth Bay, a favorite campground in Freedom,” she says.
They seek out water whenever possible. “My kids are always in the water. My husband was brought up on a swim team. He thought our kids would swim, but our philosophy was not to force them. Neither one of them wanted to. They just enjoy being in it, swimming, laughing, playing.”
Reeves feels the same way about teaching -- meeting kids where they are, teaching them, and allowing them to enjoy learning.
She left her long-time brick and mortar job in 2015 and found a job on the VLACS help desk before moving nearly immediately to teaching math. “When I got the job, we thought about RVing full time, but we weren’t quite ready to do that.”
Reeves loves teaching for VLACS. “The support here is awesome. When something doesn’t work, it gets fixed, almost instantaneously. I love the flexible work environment and getting to know my students.”
She teaches Middle School Math Topics, Algebra 1, and Geometry. With a course load of over 100 students, Reeves is never bored. “I have some students who will just drop in during office hours. They’ll just talk. It’s great.”
She especially enjoys looping, or having students more than once. “I love having them in class for Algebra 1, then they ask if I teach Geometry, that type of thing. I loved looping when I taught in a brick and mortar school, too. The students,” she says, “always seem to do better the second year than in the first year. They’re more comfortable with me.”
Reeves tells me about a student who regularly skipped assignments in Algebra 1 who doesn’t skip any in Geometry. “That student is so much more comfortable coming to me with questions and getting help this time around.”
She also brings her outdoor spirit to the virtual classroom as much as I can. “I have a whole list of things in my toolbox, all sorts of resources.” She says that students respond well to online games, “but they like songs the best.”
I envision her sitting around a campfire, singing the quadratic formula. It is a campfire sing-a-long I want to join.
“I’ve had students who tell me that they didn’t think math was supposed to be fun. I’m glad I can change their minds,” she says.
Teaching from Utah, just “a stone’s throw” from Salt Lake City, has been its own brand of fun, too. “We experienced our first earthquake a bit ago,” she says. “Utah hasn’t had an earthquake in 29 years. We just had two 4.5 earthquakes eight miles from the condo. Quite interesting. The first one, I was meeting with a student so I don’t know how much they saw.”
She needs to get back to work, has a meeting with a student. She looks out the window behind her.
“Everything’s right there,” she says, “but you can still see the mountains.”
Her students are lucky to have her.