Various types of visual aides, computers at the back of the room, and a different type of seating arrangement are the things that you’ll notice once you enter Saipan Southern High School’s classroom C-104. Welcome to the tiny kingdom of Mathematics teacher Dora Miura.
Miura is among the hundreds that were selected to receive the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching as representative of the U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Students’ seats are arranged closely into groups of four instead of the usual rows. And this is one of the things that make Miura’s instructional methods unique, especially that she’s teaching Math—a subject feared by most students.
Instead of rows, the chairs are closely grouped into four as Miura encourages close interaction among her students. “You can see in my class that the chairs are close together, promoting the concept of community and building relationships.”
“The seating arrangements are grouped into four because I encourage them to talk to each other. So if one of them does not know how to do long division, they can help each other out,” Miura told Saipan Tribune.
“The seats are not arranged by rows or columns. A lot of things that we do in the workforce require teamwork and so we have to prepare our kids for that. If we’re just going to do rows and columns, then we are not preparing them.”
“But of course they must be accountable for their own work, that’s what quizzes and exams are for and they need to do that by themselves When they are practicing on learning concepts, I encourage teamwork, but I can also respect if they want to do something by themselves.”
She added that she also encourages talking among her students when it comes to seatwork or problem solving during their lectures. “During the process of practice, I want them to talk and make sure they understand the lessons.
“I want them to say to their teammates in our class practices, ‘don’t just show me the answer, show me how it’s done’ and ‘tell me how it works that way.’ You can always hear that in my class,” said Miura, who teaches four classes each day and with a total of close to 150 students.
“When I hear that kind of thing, whether questioning each other and asking for reason, then I know that I created a community. So they are also build relationships between themselves and also with me. And for me, those are key components for every classroom to be very successful.”
She said that this concept and setup is also applicable to other subjects. “The concept of community and relationships is not only applicable in my subject but also in others. It facilitates interaction.”
“That’s why if you walk into my classroom, it may be a little noisy. And I like that as long as they are talking about the lesson and solving problems then I’m good with that. I’m always listening to them,” added Miura, who is married to Paul T. Miura.
Miura, who will be receiving the award this Sept. 8, said the process of being selected as one of the awardees was extensive and would require much of your time. Fellow teacher Chris Cabrera submitted her name for nomination.
Miura was nominated by Cabrera last year and found out that she was one of the recipients of the award two weeks ago. “I’m honored that Mr. Cabrera thought I would be a viable candidate for the award.”
“Being nominated is easy, but the process of being selected is quite extensive. You have to answer some questions and these are questions that would allow you to reflect on your teaching. These are more of an essay type questions,” said Miura.
“I also needed to make a video of myself teaching that would show how I interact with my students. The afterwards, I have to watch the video and reflect on the way I teach. It is not a quick application process and it is really quite extensive,
She said that she needed to consult her husband before agreeing to undergo the extensive process of being a recipient of the award that honors the teachers of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five territories.
“And I have to think about it if I wanted to go through the whole process. It requires much of my time and my thought. After consulting with my husband, he said okay and I went ahead with it. The application process is rigorous, judging too, panel of people who screen the candidates.”