Travels by Katie
Denver, CO

During the limited free time that I had, I went geocaching… (see below for the cache container from a cache about Edgar Allen Poe and titled “The Cask of Amontillado”…. so clever… can you guess where that container was hiding? :) 

…I caught up with old friends… 

….watched some July 4th fireworks with other friends, old and new….

…tried out Zipcar for the first time and learned how much fun it is to drive a fun car (and enjoyed the 4th of July perks Zipcar left inside my BMW, free pop chips and American flag sunglasses). 

I also spent some time thrift shopping (my favorite was the thrift/consignment store with personalized service and PBR or champagne while you shopped, and the $20 DVF top I scored), visiting with Melissa and Paul’s two little ones, and watching the USA team lose during extra time in the match against Belgium while making new friends at the Breckenridge Brewery bar (that was fun, even though the USA team lost).  

Denver, CO

In Denver, I ate lots of yummy foods. Starting with the bloody mary at the airport bar (best way to ensure falling asleep the second the plane lifts into the air). 

The vegan wings I tried at THREE different restaurants (Watercourse foods- pictured, City O City- my favorite atmosphere of the three, and Yard House- my favorite wings of the three), proof that vegan does mean the same thing as healthy. 

The yummy room service desserts: 

The green juice and vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, everything-free “cheesy” enchiladas from the Nectar Cafe, a place I visited with an OEA friend that we both fell in love with. I think that their food is also raw, because the “tortillas” were dehydrated. It was so cool (the cafe doubled as a yoga studio) and so delicious. 

NEA RA (Denver, CO)

I was in Denver for the NEA RA (National Education Association Representative Assembly), the largest democratic body (meaning everyone gets a say) and the largest labor union in the world.  Go teachers!

I’ve been to the RA before in past summers, and it’s always a blast. I love the New Business items and hearing from teachers across the country and their state’s educational issues. I love seeing the NEA’s political associations and how that political climate changes (this was the first year that we FINALLY, as a body, voted to call for the removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education- something that has been brought up for approximately since he took the position).  

It’s funny, there are some things I hate about being a union representative and serving on the OEA board of directors (mostly the politicized speeches, networking, and the “biggest fight of our lives” rhetoric that we hear every year), but then there are some things I really love about it. I do think this is important work. I do think that the NEA (and the OEA) does good things for teachers and students.  And I really enjoy the people who I work with at these events. And so, while I’m glad to have my evenings and weekends free (as I’m going off the board when my term expires in August)… I’m kind of sad, too. 

Big Blue Bear at the Colorado Convention Center

Denver, CO

So, Colorado.  I still have a love affair with this state. Although I haven’t been back often since we moved away in 1998, I’ve been back enough to start to develop a new relationship with the state.

When we moved it, I loved it, I missed it, I romanticized it, it became this mythical, amazing place. Then I went back twice in the summer for 2008 for Melissa’s wedding, and I began to see a different side of Colorado. Or maybe, I just started to see Colorado as a regular state- a good one, a nice place to visit and probably to live, but it was no longer “OMG THE BEST PLACE EVER I MUST GO BACK” like it had been in my mind for all those years. 

I remember flying back in 1999 (and even in 2008, and 2010) and as we approached DIA, I craned my neck to peer out the window at the land below. I searched for places I knew (was that the horse racetrack? can I see familiar roads off in the distance?) and I recognized ranches down below (we don’t have ranches in Ohio, we have farms….). I don’t get that feeling anymore. Colorado is no longer the place of my youth. Colorado is, to me, hanging out at Melissa and Paul’s house. Colorado is wandering around Denver in search of lunch or a snack. Colorado is, still, the blue and white mountains in the distance, the flat plains where you can see for miles and miles and miles, the hot wind.  But those things no longer bring back a flood of nostalgia for me.  


Day 1 down

Comprehensive Exams, Day 1

I was dreading these so much.  As soon as school ended yesterday and I headed home, I started to feel a knot in my stomach. I had an idea of what I would be asked.  But I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve cleared my schedule for the next two weeks and planned on just writing all day, every day. I was particularly dreading the math question. My advisor is extremely talented and bright, and expects perfection from all of his advisees. I didn’t want to get his math question. 

You know, I’ve been reading more about math anxiety and teachers’ and students’ mathematical self-efficacy (how they feel about themselves and their ability to solve math problems), and it’s strange to me when I realize that I have moments of self-doubt when it comes to mathematics.  Last summer, taking the “Basic” Probability class at NYU, I had panicky moments a lot. I would get too hyped up on caffeine and sit down to do my homework or make sense of my notes or study, and I would read a page and it would look like gibberish and my mind would go blank and I would start to work myself up, thinking things like, “What I am thinking, enrolling in this class? This is so hard! Why am I here? Why did I think I could do this? I’m terrible at graduate math! I don’t belong here!" and sometimes I would end up in tears, and sometimes I would take some deep breaths and calm myself down. 

Anyway, I eventually made it through that course, but I still remember those panicky feelings. And I feel that way a lot. It’s like the imposter phenomenon (the feeling that you don’t deserve grades/awards/jobs/praise/etc because you are not as talented as everyone else thinks you are, and somehow you have gotten where you are by fooling them) combined with math anxiety.  It’s a fear that I won’t know what I’m doing, or that I’ll make a silly mistake, or that I don’t have the background knowledge to understand higher level math. I feel as though, sure, I’m getting a Ph.D. in math education, but oh man, I really stink at graduate level math. I have no clue what I’m doing! I hope no one asks me to talk about theory, or proof, or anything related to higher-level math, because I won’t know what to say. I hope I won’t be hired to teach in a math department, because I won’t know how to teach upper level math classes. And I hoped I wouldn’t be asked a “math” comprehensive exam question because, in my mind, I can’t do graduate math

Well, I got my exam questions today, and I’m not supposed to talk about the details, but man oh man… when I started working through the math problems (because, for some reason, I was drawn to get those out of the way first), something really cool happened, all these beautiful mathematical connections seemed to come out of nowhere. I had no idea that ___ shared a connection with ___! It was a really awesome moment, and it was a really nice way to start my exams. 

So I guess I’m saying that even though I suffer from math anxiety/imposter phenomenon on occasion, I still get really geeked out about math.  

Teacher Identity

Today was my last day of school.  The last day for the year, and possibly the last “last day of school” I will have as a middle school teacher.

I’ve struggled to let go of my identity as a teacher.  Deep down, I know that when I get my degree, I most likely will not remain a full-time secondary school teacher.  I know that I want a full-time tenure-track faculty position at a university.  (I also know that this might change and I might end up teaching, working in policy, or any number of other things.)  And yet, for a long time, whenever someone asked me what I planned to do when I finished my degree, I demurred and said that I didn’t know.  Recently, my response became more specific and I admit that I will look for a university job, but then I hasten to add that ideally, I will still be able to teach one or two periods in a secondary school.  I’m not sure why I feel the need to add this- because, sure, I think that would be great, but it’s not the only type of job that I would enjoy or look for.  And the people who ask me what my plans are aren’t going to judge me for saying that I won’t teach middle school anymore. But for some reason, I feel defensive, and I think it’s because I am afraid to give up my identity as a teacher- something that has been part of me for the past 12 years. Who will I be when I’m no longer a middle school teacher? What will my expertise be in? How will I see myself?

 Well, fortunately, I don’t have to let go of my teacher identity just yet. For the next year, my title is still “teacher.” 

Nashville, TN

This year, Michael took me to Nashville for my birthday.  The weather was gorgeous all weekend and it was nice to get away for a few relaxing days before the rush of work hit in the next few weeks. 

On the way down, we stopped in Louisville for dinner. I chose a place in a cute neighborhood downtown called the Mayan Cafe. We got an appetizer of lima beans (I KNOW- but somehow, they were really really good) and the waitress recommended the Chilaquile- a “tortilla lasagna.”  It was all amazing, but the dessert, churros, were like no churros I had ever had before. Still thinking about them, and still remember them as delicious.  (Pictured is my tortilla lasagna)image

We stopped at a beer store nearby to get some drinks for the weekend. They had an amazing selection, and I even picked up a bottle from Jolly Pumpkin (the brewery in Michigan with all sours). We stayed overnight outside of Nashville in a little town called Bowling Green, right across the road from the best breakfast ever: Motor City Bar and Grill. It was like diner food, served in a bar. Only it was really good diner food and the coolest bar ever. M and I have both been talking about that breakfast ever since.  

Our first stop in Nashville was the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. I’m not usually a fan of huge hotels, but I was intrigued by the indoor gardens and fountains. It was pretty cool, and a nice way to spend some time. With the big domed glass ceiling, it almost felt like we were outside.  


We drove past the Grand Ole Opry (why not- we were right next to it!) and then, obviously, stopped here: 


Next, it was downtown for lunch. We ended up near Vanderbilt University at a branch of a pizza place that I passed all the time in NYC: Two Boots. We shared a pie that came with a little cup of pickles. And it was GOOD with the pickles on it.  

Then we wandered around nearby and found an outdoor patio with live music. The band was good, they had a local beer on tap, and the bartender went to OU. 

We wandered down music row, then made our way to the Parthenon.  

(I love this picture. So silly.)


And yes, Nashville does have a full-size replica of the Parthenon.  

Checked in to our hotel downtown, got gussied up for the night… (I LOVED my dress and necklace from Rent the Runway)…


…although I wish I had cowboy boots. So many girls wore cute short dresses with boots!

We visited another area about a mile away from downtown that seemed to have lots of breweries. I had a local Jackalope beer that tasted like a milkshake at Hops and Crafts, along with the best pretzel and beer cheese I’ve ever had. Mmm. 

We did make it back towards our hotel to check out the touristy strip of bars and bands (Layla’s Bluegrass Bistro) but I’m glad that we spent more of the day at the two other neighborhoods.  

Summary: Good birthday trip. Fun city- lots of cool and different neighborhoods and good drinks. I would love to go back. 

Sunday I ran the Athens Half Marathon (13.1 miles in 2:35), and then hydrated at Shade Winery. It was a beautiful day and I was so happy that so many friends and family made it out for the afternoon. (Check out my fractal/math themed cake from Jenny! Katie M made sorbet from wine to pair with the cake as well.)

The conference was incredible. I haven’t been to any national conference in years, and I haven’t been to NCTM since 2006. This time, as I looked through the program book, I recognized a lot of names, and I planned my schedule mostly according to the speaker, not the topic- and I was not disappointed. The speakers at NCTM are pretty much all the authors on my bookshelf at home! I was in amazing company. It was a really fantastic conference, and I felt like I was in my element. I’m ready for next year!

The conference was incredible. I haven’t been to any national conference in years, and I haven’t been to NCTM since 2006. This time, as I looked through the program book, I recognized a lot of names, and I planned my schedule mostly according to the speaker, not the topic- and I was not disappointed. The speakers at NCTM are pretty much all the authors on my bookshelf at home! I was in amazing company. It was a really fantastic conference, and I felt like I was in my element. I’m ready for next year!

Lunch at a delicious place near the convention center called Carmo (I got vegan pulled pork on a plantain patty-so good!). Afternoon sessions, then I wandered through the French Quarter Festival and enjoyed the music in the streets. Stopped into some art galleries and bought some souvenirs, and finally ended up at the MathCounts reception at Bourbon House on Bourbon Street. By chance, I met some amazing DC math teachers and now I’m going to visit their school in August. We spent some time chatting for the rest of the night.