Student comprehension is the driver in Nathan Kirsch’s mathematics classroom at Whitehaven High School. Instead of forcing students to memorize a bunch of steps and processes, Kirsch inspires students to take charge of their own learning and make meaningful connections between topics to better understand the material as a whole. He often tells his students "The more you memorize things in math class, the harder it gets. The more you understand math and make connections, the easier it becomes." Class often includes Kirsch putting an answer or statement up on the board and having students work to prove the statement or solution to be true/correct. Students use technology to examine three-dimensional shapes to further their understanding of geometry and play games to explore new math concepts. Kirsch, who has taught algebra, geometry and AP Calculus, stresses mastery above all else. Students can retake tests and assessments, but he strongly encourages them to attend his tutoring sessions before trying again. Kirsch never lowers his expectations and builds strong relationships that allow him to tap into students’ full potential. They trust and respect him, constantly showering Kirsch with questions about academics and life in general. His methods deliver outstanding results. Kirsch’s students have scored in the 99th percentile on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS). The year before he took over the school’s AP Calculus class, not a single student had passed the AP exam; in two years, pass rates rose to 83%.
An accomplished college athlete, Kirsch brings a team mindset to teaching. He constantly shares ideas and practices with colleagues and at one point was the math content representative on Whitehaven’s instructional leadership team. When the school’s competitive math team needed a coach, Kirsch stepped in without hesitation. He coaches Whitehaven’s track, cross country, and girls soccer teams and has helped them soar: Kirsch’s athletes have broken all school records from 800 to 5,000 meters, the girls’ track team has won two state championships, and the soccer team has finished as high as 2nd in the district.
Kirsch came to Whitehaven through the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR), a nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supports educators for the city’s high-need schools, and has mentored new teachers at both Whitehaven and Hamilton High School. Kirsch spent two summers developing curriculum and teaching at Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM), a summer program for middle school students from under-resourced schools in New York City. Kirsch took what he learned at BEAM and worked with MTR staff to bring the program to Memphis in 2020, including recruiting math teachers of color from colleges and universities across the country. The monthlong program is open to all incoming seventh graders in the district.
Kirsch earned a bachelor’s in mathematics in 2011 from Taylor University and a master’s in urban education in 2014 from Union University.
"I hope my students leave my class as better thinkers..." (read more)
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