Teacher Spotlight: Jessica Conlon
Jessica Conlon is a Senior MLC Math Teacher at MEK Review who is teaching Algebra I, Pre-Algebra II ONS, Pre-Algebra II PSM, and Pre-Algebra I PSM this summer.
The following is an interview between her and our marketing writer:
Teaching at MEK Review
Interviewer: What is your favorite part of teaching at MEK Review?
Conlon: I like working at MEK in particular because it’s a good corporate environment with a standardized program that has a great deal of merit. For instance, all our Algebra kids are learning from the same program, the same standard curriculum, and the same high quality instruction. So no matter who is teaching the class or if a child needs to move their schedule around, they will always receive the same high quality education and high quality content.
I also like that MEK is constantly evolving. We continue to change, and it speaks to our desire to always improve the program and make it better and better.
Interviewer: Why do you think our MEK Learning Circles classes are so effective in a virtual setting?
Conlon: Well, we cap the registration of each class at eight students, so it’s a small group. This leads to a lot of teacher interaction. The teacher is able to keep track of each student’s progress, and by looking through their grades and our rubrics, the teacher can easily assess which students need more help. This level of interaction and individual assessment is much easier to do in a class of six than a class of sixty.
Interviewer: Do you have advice for middle schoolers on becoming successful math students?
Conlon: Check your work and do not rush. I notice a lot of students who will give me answers really quickly, making errors along the way. When I ask them if they’re sure, they realize their mistake, but they need to realize that by doing it so quickly, they’re getting in their own way. At this level I expect that they can do certain things in their head such as their basic time tables, but by slowing down and writing out their steps they learn to avoid careless mistakes.
Interviewer: You are an alumnus of Rutgers University, correct? Any advice for students thinking about applying or attending?
Conlon: Yes, I went to Rutgers. I was initially reluctant to apply because I’m from the area, and it just felt as if everyone goes to Rutgers. Many of my family members and peers attended Rutgers because it’s a good school and it’s local. I finally realized that these are good reasons to attend a school, so I applied and went.
However, I will say that Rutgers can feel very overwhelming if you’re from a small town. But you just have to find your people. Whether it’s students in a certain lecture hall or students from a club you join, there are many ways to find your people. And once you do, you’ll be okay.
Science & Art
Interviewer: That’s great advice. And remind me, your degree at Rutgers was in?
Conlon: I have a B.A. in Physics and a minor in Creative Writing.
Interviewer: Oh wow. I didn’t know about the creative writing. Do you still write?
Conlon: I write some science fiction and fantasy, but mostly just for myself and my friends.
Interviewer: I feel like some students think of science and the arts as so separate, as if they have to focus or can only be good at one thing. But your interests really show how much they actually overlap.
Conlon: Definitely. I think I read a statistic somewhere that physicists or mathematicians are more likely to be religious because ultimately they are guided by a desire to find out a higher order or fundamental truth about the universe. Whether you’re religious or not, I think this speaks to the philosophical connection between the sciences and the arts.
I pursue math and physics because I am seeking the truth about how the universe works, and those subjects help me discover it. However, I read fiction and enjoy the arts, even if it’s just a silly sitcom, because it also helps me learn about the world. It helps me learn fundamental truths about humanity.
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite science fiction or fantasy author? Any book recommendations for your students?
Conlon: It can depend, but I say Terry Pratchett is my favorite fantasy author and Ursula K. Le Guin is my favorite science fiction writer right now. I’d recommend The Wee Free Men by Pratchett for my middle school students, and Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness for high schoolers.
Interviewer: Outside of teaching, writing, and reading, what do you do in your spare time?
Conlon: Similar to your last interviewee, Nick, I’m a big nerd. I play Dungeons & Dragons. I’m part of a community theater group, where I act on stage. In high school, I played in the pit orchestra for all four years for piano and violin. I still play the piano, but I’m a bit rusty on the violin.