Two University of Houston-Victoria School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development students are the recipients of a scholarship awarded to only seven college students in the state from the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Sandra Coleman of Wharton, and Amy Spalik of Pflugerville, will each receive the 2021-2022 Cynthia L. Schneider Mathematics Preservice Teacher Scholarship from the council, a professional organization that provides development for math teachers and encourages an active interest in mathematics.

The $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to students who will student-teach during the upcoming academic year and pursue teacher certification at the elementary, middle or high school level with a focus on mathematics.

“We congratulate Sandra and Amy on this well-deserved scholarship,” said Rachel Martinez, interim dean for the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “Teachers are critical to the success of our children and the future of our communities, and we wish them the best in their classrooms and careers.”

Coleman and Spalik are the seventh and eighth UHV students to receive this scholarship in recent years, said Barba Patton, a UHV professor of curriculum and instruction with a focus on mathematics. Patton is a member of the Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is a past board member for the council.

The scholarship is named after Cynthia Schneider, a former member of the council, in recognition of her years of service in many positions and her work with pre-service teachers.

To apply for the scholarship, students must have two letters of recommendation, one of which must come from a current council member. The students also must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and write an essay that describes their philosophy of teaching math or a specific mathematics topic.

Patton said she was happy to hear that Coleman and Spalik were both chosen for the scholarship, as UHV has an education generalist program and does not have a specific math education program.

“Both students go above and beyond in their classwork, and I was pleased that they were both chosen,” Patton said. “We are a small university, and we are proud of our students and the work they do here and in the classroom.”

Coleman works for a state-funded center in Katy where she mentors girls ages 10 through 17 who have been through traumatic experiences. She previously worked for 21 years as a Texas Department of Criminal Justice officer. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in education in early childhood through sixth grade with core subjects certification and plans to student teach at Fort Bend Independent School District this fall. She expects to graduate in December.

“Being told I was a recipient was tremendous and unexpected,” she said. “There are almost no words to describe how I feel but happy.”

Coleman decided that she wanted to become a teacher after years of teaching newly hired officers, and in 2017, she became a UHV student. While she has always enjoyed math and science, she would see her son struggle with his math homework when he was a child and wished she could have helped him better understand the subject.

For her essay, Coleman wrote about the importance of developing specialized math teachers and how having specialized math programs in colleges and universities help future educators stay focused on certain subjects.

“I’ve found that I like teaching younger children, and it would be great to teach math at the younger levels,” Coleman said. “There is a wide range of areas where math is involved and a part of everyday things we do, such as budgeting. It’s important that children understand mathematics from a young age.”

Spalik is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in education in grades four through eight with core subjects certification. She also plans to student teach in the fall. In addition to the state-mandated certifications, she is pursuing an additional certification in order to be a mathematics teacher for fourth through eighth grade.

“I am so honored to receive this scholarship, especially since so few students were chosen from the entire state,” she said. “This scholarship is so great to have as I am getting ready to student teach.”

Spalik got her first experience teaching when she was in the fourth grade and would help take care of younger children at a daycare. She soon volunteered for student programs at school, in her community and at church throughout elementary and middle school. In high school, she was a math student-teacher for two years for second- and third-graders. She enjoys seeing the moment when a student who has been struggling with math is able to solve the problem and begins to excel.

Spalik would like to make math a fun and interesting subject for students, so for her scholarship essay, she included an example of a math-based class activity. The activity is based off the card game “War,” and students must solve expressions to find out which person has the bigger number.

“I would like to be a math teacher who helps students get engaged with learning about math, enjoy the subject and not be anxious about it,” she said.

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