Teacher of the Year

Kristie Donavan shares the secrets of her success.

Woodbridge High math teacher Kristie Donavan enjoys teaching for the same reason she enjoys math – every student is a puzzle waiting to be solved.

“I work hard finding ways to reach students who don’t see themselves as mathematicians,” she says. “A little self-confidence and success breeds more success.”

It appears to be working. Donavan has twice been named a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Program, the highest honor the U.S. government bestows upon STEM teachers. This year, she was also named Irvine Unified School District’s high school Teacher of the Year.

We asked Donavan, who’s been teaching for 17 years, what lessons she’s learned along the way.

How much do you prepare?

The longer I’ve taught, the more emphasis and heart I put into planning. That gives me freedom to be present in the moment and react to what the students are doing.

What do you tell students?

Mathematicians discover things by making mistakes and learning from them. They all have ‘Aha!’ moments. I tell students this is their time to do that. Productive struggle is so important.

What’s your goal?

I know I’m not going to convince every student to love math. My goal is to help them feel successful whether it’s their favorite subject or not.

Any advice for teachers?

Have fun. If you’re having fun, the kids are having fun. It’s contagious.