Calculated risk

Teacher follows faith, passion to find career

Believe it or not Bretta Winters, BC calculus teacher, was not planning on being a teacher at all. Winters wanted to be an engineer since she was little, but that quickly changed when she attended college.

“I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi shows, especially Star Trek, and I really liked space and earth science so I was really interested in either becoming an astronaut or working in the space industry when I was growing up,” Winters said. “I majored in aerospace engineering, and I got a minor in mathematics because of how much I loved the space industry.”

Although Winters loved what she was doing at the time, she started to lose interest and her passion for engineering.

  “During my senior year at Texas A&M, I really felt like my heart wasn’t in engineering anymore,” Winters said. “I enjoyed the organization, and we got to build remote control airplanes and design really cool stuff, but it always felt like more of a hobby than something that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.” 

Although Winters was completely changing her career path, she knew that the basic principles of engineering would be a helpful tool in becoming a successful teacher. 

The biggest skill that helped me with my teaching career was learning to think outside the box,” Winters said. “That’s a big part of engineering; solving problems, critical thinking, and getting to explore what’s going on behind the math. I think that helps me have better explanations for my students when I’m teaching them math for the first time because I can kind of explain a little more of what’s going on and why we do things a certain way. I’m also a little better equipped to answer the question of when am I ever going to use this in real life because I’ve got lots of answers for that question now.”

Since Winters minored in mathematics, she tutored on the side and immediately knew that after her first tutoring session that teaching is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. 

“While I was in college I was tutoring math on the side,” Winters said. “I was working at a place called Mathnasium and I just really fell in love with teaching. I could really see myself doing that the rest of my life. I loved those moments when I was working with my students and they had those ‘aha’ moments.”

Not only did the joy of helping students push her to become a teacher, but so did her faith.

“I felt like God was leading me toward teaching,” Winters said. “That was my best way to help people and use the knowledge that I learned from my degree, and I wanted to encourage people to either like math, if they’ve never liked it before, or at least understand it if it was hard. And for people that were really interested, also give them that avenue of conversation to tell them the different routes they could take with math.”

Senior Lily Neideffer has noticed how Winter’s style of teaching is unique compared to other teaching techniques. Lily is glad to have a teacher who understands how students think. 

“I feel like she understands how the student mind works,” Lily said. “When she assigns homework she adds on answer keys to go with problems, and it shows you step- by-step how the problem is solved. It gives me a better understanding of the homework, and it’s a way to check yourself rather than waiting two weeks for your teacher to grade it.” 

Not only does Winters’ style of teaching help Lily understand the subject better, but it also prepares her for college courses and her desired career path. 

“This class has prepared me for college because Mrs. Winters has helped me get my own answers when I am struggling with an equation, rather than solving it for me.  I plan to be a mechanical engineer or a career that has something to do with applied physics or some form of physics,” Lily said. “My future career involves a lot of math, and this class has shown me how important math is, not to just my desired career, but in other things.

Senior Andrew Shields, understands that BC calculus is a difficult subject, but the atmosphere Winters provides lightens the mood and makes learning more fun. 

“The atmosphere is very relaxed and playful because everybody knows each other pretty well,” Andrew said. “It’s a lot easier to mess around and have fun, but it is a challenging class. The friends I have in this class make the subject much easier to understand.” 

Although BC calculus is a very challenging subject, Winters has been able to make it enjoyable for her students on her teaching journey. 

“I just love interacting with my students,” Winters said. “My relationship with my students is definitely my top priority, if things come up in class we will put the lesson aside for a moment and just talk about life if we need to talk about life. I love catching up with them everyday, talking about what’s going on outside of school and then helping bring those relationships into actually talking about math what we need to cover that day.”