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St. John School Teacher Profiles: Meet Miss Claire Cassidy, Grades 5- 8 Math

Miss Claire Cassidy, St. John School 5-8 Math Teacher
Miss Claire Cassidy, St. John School 5-8 Math Teacher

Can you tell us a little about your background and how long have you been a teacher at St. John School?
I was born in England near Winsor, I then lived in Liverpool, Edinburgh and London. I attended the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, where I graduated with an Honors degree in Human Geography before moving to Boston.  While working here I attended Emmanuel College and completed a Master’s degree in Teaching. I have been teaching junior high for over 16 years and working at St John School for the past 10 years.

What attracted you to teaching?
My paternal grandmother was an early infant teacher, so you could say it’s in my blood. But I got my first real experience of teaching while working with the Salesian Sisters in Italy.  I spent two summers working in Valle d’Aosta and Clusone teaching English to young children and absolutely loved the experience. I then moved to Boston to work at Mother Caroline Academy and fell in love with teaching junior high students.

What is most rewarding about being a teacher?
Watching a student work hard at a math problem and seeing them succeed is immensely rewarding. The look of satisfaction on their face shows you they’ve mastered the skill and are excited by their success. Working specifically with junior high students is rewarding because they’re at an age when they see the world through keenly observant eyes and don’t miss much when it comes to being truly honest about anyone or anything.

What is one thing you wish someone had told you before you started your first day of teaching?
Teaching is a very unique job where no two days are the same. In order to be successful you have to be able to adapt and think on your feet. You can teach a lesson where everything goes well, your hard work and planning pay off, yet in the next 40 minutes you teach another lesson where the experience is really different and things don’t happen in the way you had anticipated. Learning to quickly bounce back and greet the next class with enthusiasm is really important.

What’s the newest, freshest approach you are bringing to your job as a St. John School teacher?
We are extremely fortune to have iPads available for our students in the 7th and 8th grade. Starting to integrate them across the curriculum has been really exciting and has vastly expanded the possibilities for engaging students in material through a different platform.

What is the hardest thing about being a teacher?
Knowing you can only do so much to help a student who is having a hard time. It’s heartbreaking that someone so young can be facing circumstances in their personal lives that can be so tough, yet, despite everything, they continue to come to school and work hard.

What is something your students have taught you?
I feel like my students teach me something new every day. One day they teach me the value of perseverance as I watch them work hard to solve a complex math problem, the next day they teach me the importance of compassion as they gently show concern for a friend. My students are also extremely adept at reminding me of the importance of having a sense of humor in the classroom every day!

What do you like to do in your free time and why do you enjoy doing it?
I find sewing, embroidering, baking and decorating cakes really relaxing.  I also thoroughly enjoy listening to choral music especially the works of English composer John Rutter. I love to travel and am always excited to visit somewhere new. I’m also very close to my parents and treasure spending time with them.

What’s your favorite funny story about yourself?
One summer I was helping my mum with some gardening and offered to trim a few branches off a conifer tree. After removing some of the smaller branches exuberance got the better of me and I attempted to saw off an enormous tree branch that unquestionably should have been removed by a trained arborist using a chainsaw. Mid-way through my sawing, the ladder I was standing on flew out from underneath me and I grabbed onto the partially cut branch directly in front of me. The branch snapped off, crashed to the ground and sent me flying head first into a heather bush. Miraculously I was unscathed but my mother has still not forgiven me for destroying her heather.

What was your favorite toy (or game) as a child, and why?
I loved to play swing ball when I was younger. I grew up not far from Wimbledon so I would imagine I was on Center Court whacking the ball back across the net with hopes of becoming the next Womens Champion at Wimbledon.