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Allie: What brought you to DC?
Jeff: I was born in Washington, DC and raised in Silver Spring and Rockville. When I got back to the U.S. after two years in South Korea, several opportunities fell into place in the DC area.
Allie: How did you decide to become a math teacher?
Jeff: When I studied abroad in Japan, I was a guest teacher in schools and met both Japanese and foreign teachers, and this field that I’d previously considered launched to the forefront of my priorities. I applied to teaching jobs during my senior year of college and decided to go with an offer in South Korea.
When studying in Japan and China, I realized there was a significant gap in the abilities of students (compared with U.S. students) and their math teachers’ content delivery. I have a penchant for math, having studied it as an undergraduate, and I’d previously taught English as a second language, so when I got back to the U.S. after two years in South Korea I decided to become a math teacher to try something different. I teach Algebra I at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County. In previous school years, I’ve taught Geometry and Pre-Algebra and tutor in everything from Math 6 to Calculus II.
Allie: What do you enjoy most about teaching and what is the most challenging part?
Jeff: I enjoy helping students realize the change they want to see. It’s satisfying being part of their growth. When they miss the mark, I understand and make plans with them so they can give a better effort or use a different strategy. The most challenging part is knowing all of the recent changes to the curriculum and policies and making sure I’m in compliance.
Allie: I hear you’re going to Israel to teach English this summer, tell me about that!
Jeff: I’m going to be teaching with TALMA in Israel this summer. I’m excited for the challenge of working with low-income Israeli schoolchildren. I’ve wanted to get back outside my comfort zone and learn from Israeli educators by working with them in co-taught settings. I’ve also been to Israel with Habonim Dror and Birthright, so I’m looking forward to making a contribution to Israel society this time.
Allie: You also coach tennis, right? Has this always been a passion of yours?
Jeff: I played high school and college tennis. I haven’t always enjoyed playing, but am glad that I did. My experiences and coaches taught me how to work with others, maintain a high level of discipline, and compete with good sportsmanship. I like the coaching model of working one-on-one with an athlete and have brought this to the classroom. I also like helping athletes improve their awareness of others and learn how their decisions have an impact on their team.
Allie: What is at the top of your travel bucket list?
Jeff: This year, I plan to travel to India and Cyprus for the first time, which I’ve wanted to travel to for a long time. I haven’t kept a list, but if I did, Kazakhstan and a few other central Asian countries would be on it. Friends have told me about their travels through central Asia and it sounds like a fascinating and beautiful region.
Allie: Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?
Jeff: My most memorable trips were to Ecuador and Mongolia. The Galapagos is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Mongolia has one of the most unique cultures I’ve experienced. I enjoy meeting new people when I travel and reuniting with old friends. There are so many good people in so many places.
Allie: What do you enjoy most about traveling?
Jeff: I enjoy learning like a child again. I like the discomfort of stepping into a new culture and soaking it up. I like leading travel groups and planning my travels, and wandering without being aware of time.
Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC from start to finish.
Jeff: I live and work in Alexandria, but visit DC a lot on weekends. My dream day would be spent with people I care about and doing things I enjoy. I like visiting museums and would want to go back to the National Geographic Museum because I haven’t been in a while. Likewise for hiking and Roosevelt Island. Lately, I’ve been getting into book discussions at Politics and Prose, which I’ve been going to since I was a child.
Allie: What is your favorite hamantaschen filling?
Jeff: I like hamantaschen, and many other foods, with blueberry filling.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Jeff: We’ll see who’s the punniest.
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