Mandy Forslund returns as an affiliate faculty member
It’s a long road that has brought Mandy Forslund from her undergraduate days at Grand Valley to her current position as one of our new affiliate faculty members.
After earning her degree in December 2003, Mandy began teaching in the Grand Rapids Public Schools as a mid-year replacement, a position she describes as “trial by fire.” She inherited a lot of classroom management issues and quickly saw she needed to scale back the expectations she had for covering mathematics content with her students. After a year and a half, Mandy opted for a long-term substitute position in the Forest Hills Schools.
While looking around for another job, Mandy received an email advertising a teaching position at a college preparatory school in the Virgin Islands and applied, thinking it sounded like an adventure. Soon after, she was asked for an interview after which she was asked to start teaching just a few days later.
This position, Mandy says, helped her “figure out what kind of math teacher I am.” There she found an interesting, diverse group of students, many of whom were quite motivated to learn mathematics. She also learned how to deal with the challenges of creating an active learning environment and helping her students develop a richer conceptual understanding of mathematics.
In addition, she enjoyed living in the Virgin Islands, soaking up the sunshine while scuba diving and playing tennis. She also came to know the city beyond the tourist attractions and learn about the people, many of whom live in poverty “right on top of one another.”
After two years in the Virgin Islands, Mandy was ready for a change but wasn’t yet willing to trade the sunshine for our Michigan winters. She then found a position teaching high school math in a rapidly growing community halfway between Tucson, Arizona, and the Mexican border. In her seven years in that position, she found that the students were very respectful, but not aware of the opportunities that their education could open for them.
Though she originally had no intention of pursuing additional education, the University of Arizona’s Teachers in Industry program gave her the opportunity to complete her master’s degree at no personal cost thanks to various grants and paid summer internships in the STEM field. She also pursued her love of camping and hiking and found a sense of community among many recent transplants from the Midwest.
Over time, it became clear that Mandy was looking for professional opportunities beyond what was available in her school district. She also wanted to spend more time with her family as her siblings started their own families in west Michigan, and we’re delighted that she applied for and accepted our affiliate faculty position.
After beginning in the fall, she says that she feels comfortable with how she has made the transition to teaching at a university and that she has learned to understand her students and clarify her expectations for them. Mandy says that it’s clear she’s a product of the Grand Valley math department as her teaching philosophy perfectly fits with the values of our department.