New Teacher Profile: Jane Strudwick

Features  /  by Melody Leung '19  /  September 29, 2017

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time––new schedules, new classes, new faces, and among them, new teachers! Mathematics Penn Fellow Jane Strudwick recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in mathematics and art. In addition to teaching Math 3 and Precalculus, Strudwick coaches Girls JV Field Hockey in the fall and Girls JV Ice Hockey in the winter, and is affiliated with Kirby House.

Growing up as a faculty child in a boarding school in Illinois, Strudwick said that her parents “have always been positive role model[s].” While she was in a “math-heavy household,” Strudwick mentioned that her math and tutoring experiences in college inspired her to teach mathematics.

Ironically, Strudwick had not always “loved math in elementary and middle school” and didn’t feel she was “thriving.” Throughout high school and especially in the first year of college, Strudwick developed a stronger hold on math and started to excel at the subject.“Any semester that I didn’t take a math class,” she said, “I felt like I had something missing.”

Fuelled by her interest in psychology and mathematics, Strudwick did her undergraduate honors thesis on stereotype threat for women in math professions, a phenomenon in social psychology where people in a minority group are in danger of confirming negative stereotypes.

Melody Leung ’19: What led to your decision to research stereotype bias for women in mathematics, and do you see a similar phenomenon at Lawrenceville?

Jane Strudwick: When I tutored in college, I had a lot of female-identifying students come up to me feeling so defeated and say, “I’m so bad at math and I’ve always been bad at math.” They didn’t specifically say it was because they were women, but there is a certain stereotype that exists. Whereas when male-identifying students came in for tutoring, they didn't necessarily have the same attitude. Especially in higher-level math classes with engineering students, they were always almost all boys [...], so I was interested in this difference.

I don’t see a significant difference at Lawrenceville, even in the upper level math courses, which is exciting. It means that we’re doing a good job as a department and school to promote a growth mindset [and] remove the stereotyping language and examples that could be subconsciously used in classes.

ML: How has your research and experience in psychology affected your teaching?

JS: Whenever I'm teaching, I always try to use growth mindset phrasing and encourage students to grow and learn from their mistakes. I believe that mathematics is an ever-growing practice and not just a finite series of [classes]. Even for students who feel like math isn't their favorite subject or that they're not excelling as much as they could be [...], I try to encourage them to see what’s exciting about it. That’s why I do a ‘weekly inspiration’ in my class. Sometimes they're math jokes and comics, but they're also current math research and applications of math, and how we use math in real life. I try to really show the value of studying math, [as well as the value of] mathematical and analytical thinking.

ML: What are you looking forward to in your upcoming years at Lawrenceville?

JS: I’m really excited to coach [Girls] JV Ice Hockey because I heard it's really fun. As a teacher, one of my main goals is to find my voice. I want to be at a point where I know what works for me and I feel comfortable so that I could explore different pedagogies and try some fun stuff with math, versus just figuring out what I'm gonna teach that day and making sure it works.

ML: Any fun facts?

JS: I was the president of my history club in high school, and I'm a dual citizen of the U.K. and the U.S. I'm also not very good at mental math. Most math teachers are not. But it's surprising to most people... I was also in the math club in college. I love the Star Wars movies.