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Ben Mook

Eight Grade Math and Team Leader

Ben MookWhy are you an educator? Why do you love teaching?
I am an educator because I don’t have a choice otherwise. I thought I would eventually go to graduate school for anthropology, but then I got a job tutoring eighth-grade math students at SOF under the America Reads/America Counts program. When I realized the impact I could have on student performance and even their overall outlook on education, I knew I couldn’t leave. And I have been teaching at SOF since. (Well, except for a one-year sabbatical teaching in Ethiopia.)

What makes the School of the Future experience different from others you’ve had?
I have visited other schools and witnessed a lot of great teaching. But SOF is my home. While other places espouse values like learning culture and community, SOF truly lives them. I have the privilege to teach in an environment where I am pushed to succeed, but supported as I take risks and challenge myself. Can I expect eighth graders to understand the quadratic formula? At SOF, the answer is yes. I know that I can build on all of the hard work of my fellow math teachers, borrow ideas for running discussions from science teachers, or questioning techniques from the humanities department. My teacher toolbox is full of countless strategies and resources because I know I can draw on the strength and expertise of my fellow teachers.

What other activities/programs (at SOF or outside of the school) are you involved with?
Most notably, I was Edna Turnblad in the school production of Hairspray four years ago. Even though I worked on my singing voice for weeks, I was hilariously terrible, but the wig looked good.

I am also the middle school soccer coach and the varsity softball coach. I love coaching at SOF because the students really do see themselves as both athletes and student ambassadors. I can expect that other coaches will congratulate my players for their sportsmanship and teamwork. I had an eighth grader call himself for an accidental handball that the ref missed and give the other team a free kick. Umpires are always so impressed that the softball players cheer for each other whether they strike out or hit a home run because they know everyone is giving their best.

What is your advice to aspiring teachers?
Aspiring teachers should use their fellow teachers as resources. I spent every available free period in other teachers’ classrooms. I learned how to run discussions from the science teacher on the team and how to run group projects from the humanities teachers.

Why do you like working at SOF?
When I see a student rushing down the hallway a minute late to class I call out, “Hurry up. You’re missing your education.” And they move faster. Because they really do know that in that classroom is someone who truly cares about their education and personal growth. By no means do I think that everything is perfect, that every lesson runs smoothly, that every test is an A. But every student knows that we really are invested and really do care.