Student Success: When Teaching is in Your Blood
A decade after graduating high school, Marie Teto was working in a job she loved for a government-funded program that helps low-income individuals pay their heating bills. But some life changes caused her to re-evaluate her life and career goals. “I realized I wanted to do something more with my life, and education seemed like the next step,” says Marie. In 2007, she enrolled in classes at Front Range’s Westminster Campus. In no time, she was hooked on college.
From a Long Line of Teachers
Marie quickly concluded that teaching was her calling. She comes from a long line of teachers, and says the decision came naturally. “Teaching is in my blood,” she says. “I decided I would follow my heart and the family business.” One might call it serendipity, then, when Marie landed in a math class with Tom Fisher. “Tom is a one-of-a-kind teacher. He succeeds with students because he’s patient, he cares, and he wants to help.”
Community College Offers a Rich Atmosphere
Tom began teaching in the Colorado Community College System in 1980 and taught at the Community College of Denver before coming to Front Range in 1998. He says he’s loved the community college environment from the start. “I like working with adults, and I like working with such a diverse range of students,” says Tom. “It creates a rich atmosphere. For me, the actual teaching is the very best part. I like helping shape students and preparing them for whatever they will need later in life.”
Making Math Relevant for Students
When it comes to teaching math, Tom says he doesn’t see math and other subjects as separate, but related. He tries to give the often daunting subject relevancy for students. “I’m not just conveying information—I try to find ways to bring it to life,” he says. “I relate it to all areas of life so they can appreciate the subject, whether or not they take more math classes in the future.”
Math was never Marie’s strong suit, yet the degree she ultimately sought—interdisciplinary studies with a teaching license—required her to take several math courses. Whenever possible, she took those classes with Tom. “He was always there for me whenever I had a math question, even if it was for an astronomy class,” she says. “He put math in the context of the real world.”
An Advocate and a Friend
With Tom’s help, Marie got the support she needed, including Front Range’s tutoring services. “I wouldn’t have gotten through math without him,” she says. And though Tom stands out, Marie is quick to add that she had many great instructors. “I had a wonderful experience. I really felt that every teacher I had took a personal interest in me as an individual, not just a student.”
Teaching = Passion for Students
Marie took her last class at Front Range in 2009 and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado. With great teachers, great family support, and a lot of determination, Marie completed her bachelor’s degree in 2012. She is working on a post-baccalaureate teaching license at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. When she’s finished, she’d like to teach at a low-income elementary school. “I really like the idea of helping kids who face big challenges,” says Marie, a mother of two. “Those students need a teacher who really cares. I’ve known from early on that whatever I do, I want to help people.”
Tom says that Marie’s love of children and helping others always came across. “Marie very obviously valued education and learning, and I think she has good rapport with others,” he says. “If one is going to teach, there has to be a passion for the students.”
Without a doubt, that passion is something that the two have in common.