Gateway High School
San Francisco, California
Shira Helft was five when she first fell in love with math and began to “appreciate the elegant way math builds on itself.” Most of her classmates; however, ran in fear of math. Shira made it her mission to discover the reason: was it uninspiring curriculum, misguided teaching or just natural human inclination against math?
Shira continued to search for answers through a series of after-school activities, internships and research positions. She conducted math education research on college students’ understanding of proof and analyzed differences between Japanese and American education while helping prepare a presentation for the International Congress of Mathematics. She interned at the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy and taught math to Ecuadorian 8th graders through an organization that sponsored that country’s rural students to attend high school. Shira also did volunteering stints in Vietnam and Mexico, teaching at an orphanage and working on a sustainable farm, respectively.
While each of her experiences gave Shira a different perspective on math education, she kept coming back to teaching. “It is in teaching that I can best convey my enthusiasm for mathematics, to make clearer the connections that fascinate me even now.” Shira attended Schreiber High School in Port Washington, N.Y., and graduated magna cum laude from Yale University with a double major in math and philosophy. She plans to teach in California.