Student Profile: Tomek Buras Sparks Joy in the Math Classroom

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Tomek Buras

For our first student profile of 2018, we had the pleasure of speaking with Tomek Buras while he wrote thank you notes to GGSE supporters. Tomek is working towards his single subject teaching credential in mathematics. After enjoying higher-level math courses as an undergrad at UCSB, Tomek felt passionately about bringing that same joy to the study of mathematics at his placement in Santa Barbara High School (SBHS). Read more of our interview with Tomek here. #mathematics #TEPatUCSB #problemsolving #beautyofmath #teachered

GGSE: What made you decide on GGSE?
Buras: I decided on the Gevirtz School because of my experience in the Science and Mathematics Education Minor as an undergraduate here at UCSB. I figured that, since I was already familiar with the faculty and the program (the scenery certainly didn't hurt either), I would apply for the early decision deadline and commit early if I were to be accepted. I was, and here I am.

GGSE:  So far, what has been a highlight from your experience in the program or from your fieldwork experience in a classroom?
Buras: So far, the highlight of my experience in the program would probably have to be seeing students engage in actual higher-level mathematical discourse at SBHS. Too often, students are limited to practicing their procedural skills. When I see students think about and discuss real, novel ideas, it makes me smile (inside and outside). After all, those kinds of discussions are what got me passionate about math in the first place.

GGSE: What issue(s) are you passionate about in education?
Buras: I'm passionate about the issue of inequity in the achievement of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. While this may be difficult to address on a small scale, I look forward to (hopefully) inspiring students to value knowledge and education and break the cycle of poverty and ignorance. Albeit a romantic ideal, I do hope to battle the growth of anti-intellectualism and ignorance in the US by getting students to see the value in seeking out and knowing the truth.

GGSE:  Is there a particular person and/or experience in your educational background that was meaningful to you/made you want to teach?
Buras: As an undergraduate, I was already interested in math. But what really made me want to be a teacher was when I got to explore the math I was learning about it in Chris Ograin's classes (specifically Math 102). This was one of the first times I could really fiddle with the problems and solve them as puzzles. The courses were challenging, but that's what made them fun. I hope to get my future students as excited about solving puzzles (math problems) as I was. That lust for problem-solving reaches far beyond the walls of the math classroom.

GGSE: If you could give an hour lecture on any topic, what would it be?
Buras: Wow, that's a tough question! While I'm not a big lecturer (I prefer a good, healthy debate), if I could give an hour lecture on any topic, it would probably have to be on the philosophies of Nietzsche, Sartre, and/or de Beauvoir and their thoughts on Existentialism. I'm fascinated by that school of thought and I love to explore existentialist thought experiments. It might be an unpopular subject, but does that really matter? I'm also a huge fan of The Big Lebowski. I could talk about it for days.