Teaching Biography

— Fifteen years teaching math, chess, and design classes after school, mostly at treeresized1public schools in Berkeley
— Four years tutoring math, teaching SAT and GRE for Kaplan, and guest teaching mathematics at Waldorf schools in Northern California
— Four years teaching at math, music, and main lessons at two Waldorf schools in Marin
— Four years teaching music and mathematics at two schools in Oakland
— B.A., Mathematics, Oberlin College, 1979
I was the first of my family to go to college, and studied Mathematics at Oberlin because that’s what my father wanted me to study, although he didn’t live to see me graduate. And in high school, in a rush of all-night creation before a calculus exam, I invented, or re-invented, four very different ways to calculate the area of a circle. I didn’t have the terminology of problem-solving that I do now, but looking back, but looking back, that was my first times of discovery and creation.  In college, the same happened again with a discovery, published by my professor, of a way to greatly reduce the computations required on huge matrices.
After school, I worked as a carpenter, then accordionist, and I never thought that I would work with children. I became music director at a church in Oakland, and was thinking of becoming a priest. I began teaching music only because the principal at the adjoining school asked me to. That summer, a parent asked me to tutor her seventh grade boy in math, although she had no idea that I had majored in it; she  only knew me as a music teacher. I was instantly captivated by the challenge. I tutored Curtis once a week while spending days and evenings holed up at the Ed/Psych Library at Cal, reading all I could of the literature on how to teach math. It was not an especially lucrative endeavor. Factoring in study time, I earned .25/hour from my tutoring that summer.
After four years of teaching in Oakland, I taught at two Waldorf schools in Marin as a music specialist, math specialist, and class teacher for eighth grade. There I learned the most I ever have about the art of teaching. Though I disagree with some of the specifics of the Waldorf approach, its pedagogy is the most profound and most spiritual I have encountered thus far, and it still informs my thinking. After four years in Marin, I decided to leave elementary schools to teach independently.
For four years I taught SAT/GRE for Kaplan, traveled regionally as a guest teacher at Waldorf schools, and tutored math privately. Three years later I decided to leave Kaplan during Lent when I was brought to the conclusion that my work there was spiritually empty, so I didn’t go on the Master Teacher tack they were developing.
At this time I also tutored math to high school and middle school students.. Individual tutoring is a wonderful complement to classroom teaching; ever since, I have thought of this tutoring period as my research and development time, when I could closely observe what goes on in a student’s mind, something that’s a lot harder to do when teaching a group.
I assumed I was taking a very different path when I decided to spend less time teaching math and more time playing accordion, but the two have proven more similar than I once thought. Although I studied classical accordion from age five, I’ve always been attracted more to teaching it than to performing. All my music students have been adults, and I’ve been privileged to participate in journeys of great intimacy as we encounter music in their lives. I’ve also done many shows, which have taught me that teaching math to a group of children is a form of performance. It is caring for an audience, it is improvisation with an audience.
 For the past fifteen years I have taught after-school classes to children in grades K-6 in Berkeley/Oakland, 200+ students per semester.,. I’ve been surprised at how much I have enjoyed developing new Kindergarten curricula, as I had thought my strongest teaching was around eighth grade. in  It’s been particularly important to me to encourage girls in math and chess., which has led to SuperGirl Math and Chess for Girls, and led me to hire a gender consultant to critique my teaching and discuss the academic research on how girls learn. I founded and currently direct an annual chess tournament, now in its sixth year. And at lunchtime Math Circle last year, with 32 positions available, we had 76 sign-ups — 76 children who preferred doing math to playing on the playground.
Henri Ducharme August, 2013