Meet six local teachers who are making a difference
Bells Mill Elementary School, Potomac
Rachel Rabin says being bad at math as a kid has made her a good math teacher. She’s open about her own struggles with the subject while growing up and is determined to make it a better experience for her fourth-grade students at Bells Mill Elementary School.
“I tell the kids they can’t say, ‘It’s hard.’ They can say, ‘I don’t get it yet,’ or ‘I’m still trying,’ ” says the 31-year-old graduate of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. “I try to promote positive messages and make math fun.”
That means using games and contests to teach the subject, and sometimes making up problems that feature stats from a Washington Capitals game. Rabin, who recently earned a master’s degree in instructional technology at Johns Hopkins University, also leverages technology. Students in her class use handheld clickers to register their answers on the classroom’s interactive whiteboard, allowing her to track their understanding in real time. Rabin, who teaches four classes of math to about 100 students, also posts videos to a class website that show her solving problems for her students to review at home.
“She changed my son’s trajectory,” says Trisha Rubin, whose son, Ian, was taught by Rabin four years ago. “He went into her class not very confident and came out feeling like he owned the world and has ever since.” Rubin’s daughter, Sydney, now a 10th-grader, calls Rabin her favorite teacher because of the personal connections she made—even attending her and Ian’s musical theater performances.
A few years ago, just before Rabin was married, her students threw a surprise “mock” wedding, doing all the planning on their own. “They had music and assigned parts to everyone. It was incredible,” Rabin says of the event, which was held in an empty classroom that was decorated secretly by the kids. “That was one of my best memories as a teacher—making that connection with that class.”