If you’re a fan of Ted Drewes frozen custard, chances are that in the past you were served the delicious cold treat by our new math teacher, Louise Ortman. After all, she worked there for nearly eight years through high school and college. Now, instead of feeding the masses, she’s serving up big helpings of Geometry and Beginning Algebra to some lucky Priory math students.
She knew she wanted to be a teacher during her undergraduate years, when she earned a Bachelors in liberal studies with emphases in psychology and communication from University of Missouri-St. Louis. She went on to earn a Masters of Arts in profession counseling from Lindenwood, took education courses, and began to tutor. Last spring, she took some more teaching classes at UMSL, and completed a practicum at McCluer South-Berkeley. “I decided I liked teaching more than counseling. I am more passionate about teaching, and feel like I am making more of a difference.” She remembers clearly her favorite teacher (History), and also a terrible teacher who failed to connect with her students (AP Calculus). “There are too many bad teachers in the world who won’t help their students,” she said. “I’m not one of them. I want to create a positive classroom environment.”
Louise, the oldest of three girls (who all worked at Ted Drewes), is a good mix of her left-brained father and her right-brained mother. Her two favorite classes were literature and math.
She attended Rosati-Kain High School, where she had an excellent experience. “It’s academically challenging, but the focus is not just on academics,” she said. “A big part of it is just maturing and becoming an adult. All the teachers were really supportive. There’s a place for every student. There were some kids who were popular and if you compared them other schools’ popular kids they would seem really weird. We all loved being really weird.” Louise still revels in her nerdiness. “This summer, I went to Florida.” This sounds like a standard summer vacation until she continues, “I went to Tampa and did AP Calculus training. It was awesome. I’m nerdy!”
She wants her students to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Her goal for her 7th graders is to get them ready for Priory’s math curriculum moving forward. “I want my students to work, yes, but I also want them to struggle productively. I want them to struggle with math and be successful. That’s the best way to learn. If it’s too easy, you’re not learning. We learn through our mistakes.” She’s using Google Classroom to further connect with her students, and is so excited about the possibilities it offers that she’s introducing other faculty members to the application. She’s already enjoying getting to know her students this year. “I care about them as a person, not just as a student of math,” she said. “It’s about maturing and being supportive of that maturing.”
Louise, when she’s not teaching, loves to read. At the time of her interview, she was reading “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)” by Barbara Oakley. She recommends “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids” by Dr. Madeline Levine, and “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life” by Dr. William Deresiewicz. The books cover how very high expectations in successful families can cause some stress on children, and how we should promote individuality and genuineness in our adolescents and young people instead of conformity.
She also enjoys baking cookies, and spending time with her two pit bulls, Cholo and Samantha, and Dan, her boyfriend of over seven years. Cholo is a sweet, 85-lb lap dog who loves to cuddle under the blankets, and Samantha is the diva. Louise has a motorcycle license, and enjoys riding her scooter around her South City neighborhood. “I have a real scooter, 150cc, which is a lot bigger than the 49cc ones. It’s still nothing, but it’s bigger,” she laughs. In a nod to her artistic side, she’s decorated her white helmet with reflective and washi tape. She likes to reference her favorite television shows, which include The Office and Criminal Minds. “I’ll have to figure out how old the show is before I reference it in front of my students,” she said. “Some of them are on Netflix now, so they might watch them.” She loves 90s music, especially cover songs, and going to Blues games with Dan.
Louise’s enthusiasm is contagious, and she’s happy to join the Priory family. A young Rebel-in-the-making (he has older brothers here) charmed her with a warm welcome at Rebel Round-Up, and she looks forward to meeting more families throughout this year.