By John Philip Wyllie
It’s more than 120 miles between Calexico and San Diego. But for Calexico Unified School District mentor teacher and athletic director Carlos Duarte, Saturday’s two-hour road trip was one well worth taking.
Duarte remembers how tough it was to motivate his first math class more than a decade ago when he began teaching in the Imperial Valley after obtaining his degree and teaching credential from UCSD. Duarte’s trip to San Diego was prompted by his desire to help teachers tackle a common problem: motivating students.
“We are faced with lot of students that are not interested in going to school,” Duarte said. As a teacher, Duarte’s first priority was to motivate his math students to learn a subject that many regard as dry and boring.
“I knew the material, but as a rookie teacher, I didn’t know how to deliver it,” he said after addressing a group of 30 area math teachers at a Fantasy Baseball teacher training at Balboa Park’s Hall of Champions.
Faced with a classroom made up almost entirely of recently arrived Spanish speaking students from Mexico and Central America, Duarte was desperately in search of something that would spark their interest. He found it in Fantasy Baseball.
Fantasy Baseball, developed by former math teacher Tim Scheidt, is a simulated baseball game through which students gain a better understanding of advanced mathematical concepts using a hands-on interactive approach. By linking the learning to something the kids already know and love, baseball, it makes learning fun.
“I first learned about Fantasy Baseball in 1994 through a teacher training held at the Imperial Valley County Office of Education,” Duarte recalled. “I was a new teacher then moving from a high school assignment to a junior high and I needed something creative to do with my kids. I went through one of the (Fantasy Baseball) teacher trainings and later on I ran into Tim at a workshop. He remembered me and asked me if I wanted to come out and start presenting the program to other teachers. Since 1996, I have been part of the presenting team. The job has taken me to several National Council of Mathematics teacher workshops all over the country.” He has also crisscrossed California spreading the word about this innovative way to make math fun.
As part of its educational outreach program, the San Diego Hall of Champions will sponsor any teacher wishing to become a part of the program and provide them with free training and materials. Fantasy Baseball is expected to reach over 15,000 students in San Diego County alone this year and thousands more throughout the United States.
“I like the idea that people get excited about it. I feed off other people’s enthusiasm,” Duarte said. “It’s a great hook. The kids like the idea of being part of a team and the program lends itself to all types of kids. It draws upon real-life situations so it makes math easier to comprehend. Everybody may not understand math, but regardless of where you are from, everybody knows about baseball.”
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