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Meet the Staff: Math Instructor Ruth Helgerud

05 May

Meet the Staff: Math Instructor Ruth Helgerud

Posted By: 
Kimberly White

Hi Mrs. Helgerud! Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I currently live just north of Houston in The Woodlands, TX with my husband and three teenage daughters (and our beagle). Before moving to Texas 15 years ago, we lived in California (San Francisco bay area) for 7 years. I grew up in Bloomington, IN, but also spent two years living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when I was little and was an exchange student in Germany my senior year of high school. I have also lived in Minnesota (college and student teaching) and Utah (my first teaching job). I love to travel, read, spend time with my family, and do anything involving music and the arts. While I do not currently have the time to participate as I used to, I enjoy keeping up with my daughters’ artistic endeavors and attending community and professional performances as much as possible.

Why do you love to teach?

I love helping people discover new ways to think about and solve problems. It is so rewarding to work with someone and guide them though a challenging topic to a point of clarity. Seeing the proverbial light bulb go on is so exciting! And I love sharing the beauty and power of mathematics with students.

What types of courses/grades do you teach at CMASAS? 

I teach high school math–everything from Algebra to AP Calculus and AP Statistics.

What inspired you to want to teach at an online school that emphasizes personalized education vs a site-specific traditional school? 

I enjoy teaching in many different environments, but my favorite is one-on-one. I have been teaching online at our local community college for several years, and I really like the way online teaching is essentially individual instruction. Students have the ability to work quickly or slowly, to get help when they need it rather than feeling lost while the rest of the class moves on, and to go over the material as many times as they need to understand it. I also love the flexibility teaching online affords me as the mom of three busy teenagers, one of them a performer who needs to be chauffeured all over the place all the time!

Do you have a favorite story of teaching where you feel you helped a student create a truly personalized learning experience?

Several years ago I had a student at the community college who was struggling with the material in my Algebra class. He had to complete the course in order to transfer to another school for his undergraduate degree. After meeting with him a few times, I could tell he had an intuitive understanding of things, but had a very hard time putting his thought process on paper. I ended up giving him his exams in person and letting him talk through his thought process so I could grade him accurately on his overall understanding. He passed the course and went on to work on his history degree in preparation for applying to the police academy. Without that accommodation, he would not have been able to continue with his education. I ran into him in the hospital a couple of years later (he was an EMT), and he still remembered me. It is wonderful when students immediately understand things, but it is even more rewarding to help students struggling with material to realize they can master it!

As an online school teacher, what does a typical day look like for you? 

During the week I get up early and help get two of my three kids out the door for school and my husband off to work. Then I have a cup of coffee and answer emails for a little while before my middle daughter (a CMASAS student) gets up and we have breakfast. After breakfast I usually work until lunch while my daughter works on her schoolwork. I also teach online at the local community college, so I check in on the progress of those students and post announcements, review their work, and answer questions, in addition to grading and answering emails or meeting with students during this time. After lunch, I look over things my daughter needs to turn in and on days she does not have to be somewhere, I work on math with her (the benefits of having a math teacher mom) before her sisters get home. Other days, I drive her to voice or guitar lessons, and in the evenings to dance, acting, or voice classes, or to rehearsal for a show. I often work on grading or email while I wait for her lesson or class to be done. We eat dinner as a family if everyone is home, but at least a couple of days a week that isn’t possible and we all eat different things at different times! At the end of the day I help my oldest and youngest with homework if they need it (sometimes over text if I’m not home), and try to get everyone in bed at a decent hour!

What is one dream you have for your students’ happiness and health that you enjoy encouraging them in? 

I hope that my students will gain confidence in their ability to learn independently and ask for help when they need it, to learn perseverance and creative problem solving. I also hope they acquire an appreciation for the beauty and power of mathematics.

What is a goal or dream that you are currently working towards? 

I am always working on being healthier, both physically and mentally, especially as I get older and more aware of the toll daily stresses put on my body and mind. Fitting physical activity and good eating habits into our busy family schedule is an ongoing project, but luckily my husband and kids are with me on it!

How can parents and students contact you? 

email: rhelgerud@cmasas.org 

phone: 1-503-226-7374 ext. 849

phone: 1-888-832-9437 ext. 849