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Joseph Percefull • Math • Oldham County Middle School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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Math. The very word may bring tears to your eyes. We struggle through it year after year, and for what? The most common question asked in math class is, “When will we ever use this?” Mr. Percefull would answer, “Probably never, but don't you want to be able to help your kids with homework? Don't you want a base for further learning? Honestly, all the math you need to know you were taught in fifth grade. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are all an average person needs. I hope, though, that all of you will go beyond that, because none of you are ‘average.'”

What makes a good teacher? In most cases you learn the same thing, but the difference is astounding. Mr. P (as we call him) teaches students based on what he knows we're capable of. In the past two years, he has taught me not just about math but life and personal obligation. We've explored topics that go beyond the definition of “teaching.” I love math class because every day is a surprise; I never know what the lesson will develop into.

Usually math inspires fear, but Mr. P turns that fear into a unique kind of understanding, and, surprisingly, progress and learning. His teaching style is based on the idea that we need to come to the answer ourselves. He has us arrive at the answer through logic and reasoning.

The pace of the class is fast, but Mr. P will go through the process as many times as necessary so all of us understand. He works hard to make sure we know what we're doing – and why. The reason why something works is something most teachers won't address, but Mr. P is different. The process is always clear, concise, and easy to follow. We've been learning quadratics – a fun topic, I know – but he has been there the whole time, pushing us and telling us that we can do it.

In spite of having kids of his own, Mr. P is very involved with school activities. He teaches two math classes, hosts a leadership group, is the Gifted/Talented Student Coordinator, and guides students in Independent Study classes. All this on top of being in charge of the Kentucky Youth Assembly and the Kentucky United Nations Assembly for our school. We appreciate every second he works to make school more enjoyable and helpful for our futures.

Our world will one day be left in my generation's hands; we are the ones who must fix today's problems and those of tomorrow. My generation is the most enlightened in history, and yet we have been dubbed “The Generation That Doesn't Care.” Mr. P's response is that that's dead wrong. He gives us every opportunity to better ourselves and potentially make a difference for the future; leadership is something he constantly stresses. He wants us to be willing to come forward and say, this is the problem and this is how we fix it. Students in Mr. P's class quickly learn that if they want to be treated like an adult, they'd better act like adults.

No teacher has encouraged me to share my views on current issues more than Mr. P. We have had heated debates about gay marriage, religion, and immigration – to name just a few – but we have also done fun projects like paper-mache and creating music videos. Mr. P stresses both academic and artistic success. He goes beyond teaching, and for that I want him to be recognized.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the June 2012 Teen Ink Educator of the Year Contest.





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