Sydney DeBruin

Sydney DeBruin

Sydney DeBruin
Major/Job Title:
Math Teaching Major

Sydney DeBruin

When and why did you decide to become a mathematics teacher?

Most of my life I have known I wanted to be a teacher mainly because I was raised by an amazing teacher. My mother was the first person I looked up to. She was my first role model. I saw how important her job as a teacher was from a very young age. Seeing her ability to touch and impact the lives of so many of her students, gave me the inspiration to pursue teaching as a career. During high school is when I knew I wanted to become a math teacher. I had two awesome math teachers, one who had been teaching for a long time, and one who had just recently graduated from college. Both teachers had a positive impact on me, and I realized I wanted to do the same for my students in the future. Throughout high school and college, I realized how important a positive relationship with my teachers and professors was to me. I genuinely believe my future would have turned out differently if I had less meaningful relationships with my professors. Cultivating positive and genuine relationships with my students is the reason I have become so passionate about my career. I have always said, “I am passionate about building relationships with students, and it just so happens that I am pretty good at math, so why not do what I am passionate about while also doing what I am good at.” Everyday I try to remember this as I use the knowledge and relationships with my students to help them understand mathematical concepts. 

You are originally from southern Iowa. What were the reasons you chose UNI over other colleges?

I chose to go to UNI for three reasons. The first one being my older sister, who I have always looked up to, attended UNI, the second were the professors I met during my visits, and the third was the size of the campus. I did not feel the connection toward other universities like the one I felt during my tours at UNI. When I toured the campus of UNI, I liked how I did not have to get on a bus to get from one side of campus to the other. Another important feature to me was the support of the professors. When I visited other colleges and met with the professors, I did not feel like I would have the opportunity to get to know my professors and experience their support one-on-one. When I visited UNI I knew, because of the smaller class sizes, I would have an opportunity to get to know and connect with the professors. The opportunities for the supportive relationships with faculty and staff is why I chose UNI. 

Which mathematics courses made the greatest impact on your development as a mathematics teacher?

This is a tough question to answer because the greatest impact on my development as a teacher was not so much the courses, because all of them were helpful in their own ways, but the way each professor cared about the success of their students and ensured the content was relevant to us. This is ultimately what made many of the courses I took so beneficial. To name a few classes that really stand out are: Connections: University Mathematics and the Secondary Curriculum, and Discrete and Argumentative Mathematics. These courses gave me an insight into what the world of teaching should and could look like for me in the future. 

What are your favorite memories from UNI?

I will forever cherish my time at UNI. I could write many pages about the memories I have from my time at UNI, but I will not do that to the readers. A few things I really enjoyed were: being involved in Dance Marathon, welcoming new students to UNI through Cat Crew and as a UNI STEM Ambassador, late nights in Rod Library, spending hours working on one proof with classmates, and the greatest gift of all was meeting my fiancé. 

While in high school, you went on a mission trip to Africa. Was that the only experience abroad you have had?

I took the trip to Africa during my junior year of high school, but while I was at UNI I was intending on traveling internationally for student teaching. I was accepted into the international student teaching program and had been officially placed in Thailand when COVID hit, which canceled the student teaching opportunity.

You are currently a mathematics teacher at Oskaloosa High School. How was the transition from college to your first full time job and what are your first impressions about being a high school teacher?

This transition has been a challenging but rewarding experience. One reason this transition has gone smoother than expected is due to the fact that I am teaching at the same school I student taught at. This allowed me to go into the first year of teaching with some knowledge of the students, relationships with the staff and faculty, and knowledge of how the school district runs. I believe my education while at UNI and my experience during student teaching prepared me in the best way possible for the first year of teaching. 

I love being a high school teacher and building relationships with my students. My favorite part of my job is that there is not one day, or even one class period, that I do not laugh. This makes going to work every day very exciting. I also have really enjoyed getting involved with the school and community outside of the classroom. Attending my students’ sporting and extracurricular events has been such a joy. One reason I enjoy high schoolers so much is because I have the opportunity to connect with them in many different ways depending on what each student is passionate about in their life. 

What kind of teacher do you aspire to be?

I aspire to be a teacher who creates positive, impactful, and meaningful relationships with my students while cultivating a teaching environment that engages students to want to learn. Some days it is extremely challenging to motivate students, to make them want to learn. I have learned in my first 5 months of teaching that the best way to motivate my students is to develop positive relationships with them and tie those relationships into my teaching. I do my best to incorporate the hobbies and interests of my students into the content. When creating culturally relevant lessons, I have seen the motivation of my students increase. I accept the fact that not all students are going to love math, but I still make it a priority for them to learn mathematical concepts in a positive and engaging environment. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love spending time with my 7-month-old bulldog named Dunkin, I enjoy remodeling and renovating my house that my fiancé and I bought over the summer, and I enjoy being an aunt to two nephews and a niece on the way.