In her 10 years since she graduated from the University of Illinois and took a job at Centennial High School, math teacher Betsy Alderman has developed a penchant for being playful.

Whether the Salt Fork product is wearing a giant foam finger to teach a lesson about simplifying rational expressions, playing games with her class or making math puns, she spends her days making math fun and interesting for her students.

I find my work important because … it is the intersection of being called to love and serve others and the notion that all children deserve excellent teachers. Students need emotionally healthy leaders to help them develop into mindful adults.

I became a teacher because … my second-grade teacher inspired in me a love of learning and of helping others. I wanted to grow up and be just like her. Many educators after her were formative to my desire to become a teacher, too.

My favorite/most unique lesson that I teach is … anything with a silly prop, like a finger puppet, or a Mr. Clean magic eraser, or a foam finger. My co-teacher and I teach a preview lesson about simplifying rational expressions. We learn about expressions that are equivalent to the number one and then look for the “number one in disguise,” to help us simplify. I wear a giant foam finger to emphasize the number one that day and bring it back throughout the unit as a reminder. It makes for some one-derful jokes.

My most fulfilling moment on the job is … graduation. It is an honor to watch students take their steps from Unit 4 into the world beyond. Seeing students walk the stage and celebrate their victories brings a flood of emotions.

Something else I’m passionate about is … good dessert. Illinois basketball. The lack of tall women’s athletic wear. And detracking.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was … Mrs. Karla Darr (Catlin Grade School) in junior high language arts. Finding a student whose life was not greatly impacted by her would be difficult. At Catlin High School, my favorite teacher was Ms. Amanda Lovall-Cole. I still apply what I learned in her science classes frequently. My favorite subject to study, though, was math with the legendary Ms. Nancy Johansen.

I engage students during this strange time by … playing games that build relational capacity. They help students remember how to interact with one another and relieve stress!

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be … a cookie baker! My latest experiments were a German chocolate cake cookie and a Rice Krispie treat cookie.