Ms. James: An Amazing Addition to Northgate

Robyn Clarke, Staff Writer

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To be completely honest, math isn’t my favorite subject. I’m more of a literature and history person; I’d rather spend the afternoon writing an essay than doing math problems. However, taking Advanced Algebra with Ms. James last spring helped change my perspective towards the subject.

The change in my mindset had less to do with the subject itself and more to do with Ms. James. Whether it was test day or the first day of a new unit, she always had a smile on her face and an endless stream of energy. On more than one occasion, our class dissolved into laughter because of something she’d said, and for that reason, I began to look forward to math class each day. The content didn’t always come easily to me, but Ms. James never lost patience, no matter how many times she had to explain something to me. She goes above and beyond to help her students achieve success, a quality which sets her apart and solidifies her as one of the best teachers at Northgate.

While she had always enjoyed math, Ms. James didn’t immediately know she wanted to be a teacher. She graduated from college with a degree in mathematics, and after working as a flight attendant, went back to school to get her teaching certificate as well as her master’s and specialist degrees. But it wasn’t until she was helping her mother with math that she realized she could teach the subject. “It was… the same stuff that I was doing in high school. I was like, ‘Oh, this is easy to teach… I could always do that.’” For Ms. James, being a math teacher goes beyond simply liking the material: it’s a way she can help others.

In the fourteen years that she’s been teaching, that’s exactly what she’s done. Senior Brooke Barber says Ms. James taught her to not give up. “I went to her class hating math and thinking I was awful at it and came out thinking math was fun and that I was good at it. Her class taught me that if I try my best, anything is possible!”

Junior Emma Ballew, who currently has Ms. James, agrees, adding, “… I love her class, and it’s made me more interested in math and my future education.” In her eyes, the relationships Ms. James builds with her students is what makes her a good teacher. “[She] gets to know her students well and teaches on a personal level. She makes the class fun and learning exciting.”

Ms. James says she most enjoys helping students reach heights and accomplish more than they believed they could. “[I love] having the kids that… make anything they never thought they’d make, and having them come back years later and say, “Oh my God, I never would have made it if I hadn’t had you.”

Her students are able to reach and exceed their goals because she’s always there to help them, regardless of when they need her. Often, I would go down to her room at 7:45 in the morning for tutoring, and despite having things to do, she always sat down and helped me work through the problems or concepts I didn’t understand. And once, when I was absent and missed a test, she stayed after school so I could take it- on Valentine’s Day. As Barber puts it, “She really goes out of her way to help each individual student. She takes time to help [them] one on one if they [don’t] understand… [and] she…never gets frustrated when a student is having trouble learning!” Ballew says Ms. James’s endless patience has taught her to keep working towards something, no matter how long it takes.

Everyone who has had Ms. James knows she’s from Canada. She often speaks of her home country and shares interesting facts about Canadian culture. She attended a private, all-girls high school in Montreal, and was surprised to find out that Claire Brachman, a former Northgate French teacher, went there too. Ms. James explains, “We both thought, ‘Oh my, we’re from Montreal- what are the odds of that?’ And we both said, ‘Where did you go to high school?… Oh, it’s just this small… school… you’ve never heard of it… Sure enough, we both went to the [same] school and even had one of the same history teachers.”

Years from now, Ms. James’s students will remember her for the way she not only helped them through math class, but for the way she impacted them beyond the classroom. I’ll never forget her bright smile and upbeat energy. She always found a way to make my day brighter, but beyond that, she cared about what was going on in my life outside of school. I’m not the only one who has been influenced by Ms. James- junior Cole Whitetree has, too. “[She’s taught me] to be respectful to [others and] be quiet while [they’re] learning… She doesn’t just teach math.”

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