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Margaret Hennessey

2011 Fellow
Durham School of the Arts
Durham, North Carolina

After graduating from St. John’s College with a liberal arts degree, Margaret Hennessey worked as an art teacher, a cook in an upscale Italian restaurant, a project manager for a museum exhibit design firm, and a farmhand on an organic avocado ranch.  To add to her list of extraordinary experiences, Margaret spent five months living in a dome tent while building an outdoor kitchen and a yurt with her partner, and volunteered in the restoration of an old spa in central Portugal.   Margaret sees these varied but challenging jobs as good preparation for teaching.   “Learning to be comfortable in unfamiliar territory is an important lesson I want to teach my students.”

While Margaret was always good at math, she realized “how beautiful and exciting math could be” when she began taking math classes at St. John’s, where students discussed mathematics in a conversational rather than traditional lecture setting.  Margaret found that she enjoyed demonstrating and discussing mathematical propositions more than any other part of her college experience.  “Realizing how much I enjoyed breaking down challenging ideas into manageable pieces marked the beginning of my path towards becoming a teacher.”

As a young woman passionate about math, Margaret believes it is important to encourage girls to pursue careers in mathematics.  “Often girls think they’re ‘bad at math’ because they lack the confidence to engage with the subject – and in fact they’re more able to master its intricacies than they think.”  A graduate of Middletown High School, Margaret is the recipient of the Durham Teaching Fellowship, which comes with a two-year teaching commitment to the Durham Public Schools in North Carolina.

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As a teacher, I want to emphasize how gratifying it can be to jump into something that is challenging, unfamiliar and overwhelming.

Margaret Hennessey
2011 Fellow