Aaron Sundstrom is slowly becoming a staple at Ensworth High School. While his math mind has been a welcomed addition to the teaching community, it’s his ability to relate to his students that really makes Mr. Sundstrom a treasure among the Ensworth community.
Tell me about some of the subjects in Mathematics you teach?
In my time at Ensworth, I have taught Algebra 1, Integrated 1, Integrated 2, Precalculus, Statistics, and Discrete Math. The past two years, I’ve focused on the upper levels of the curriculum, specifically Precalculus, Statistics, and Discrete Math. Most people shutter to think about Precalculus, and most have heard of Statistics. But almost nobody outside of the math world has heard of Discrete Math. So what is it? I like to characterize Discrete Math as techniques of problem solving. To me, it is the best high school math class to address the age-old question of “when will I ever use this?” In Discrete Math, we study topics ranging from personal finance to how postal workers decide what route to use to deliver the mail. From problems that are abstract to solutions applicable to the real-world, my students learn some cutting-edge mathematics that are applied to seemingly simple, real-world problems.
Now you seem to have a great relationship with so many of the students at Ensworth not just as a teacher, but as a friend. What do you think has been the key element in creating those?
I think the key to maintaining strong relationships with students is breaking down the illusion of the non-human teacher. I remember being a student and thinking that my teachers lived at school. I would never imagine one of my teachers going to the movies, enjoying a nice dinner out, or going to the grocery store. Sharing my every-day experiences and challenges is both entertaining and engaging. Plus, I often find myself thinking about math in the world around me while at the grocery store – why not share that with my students?!?
What subject in school, besides Math, did you really enjoy?
When I went to college, I planned to major in Physics, Philosophy, or English. By the time I finished school, I had majored in math and gathered enough credits to nearly minor in English, Religion, and Sociology. Since college, I have found that my favorite books to read are non-fiction books on the topics of history and economics. And my wife and I are members of the Frist, and we visit most exhibits multiple times. So, I would say that I really enjoy learning about anything that is new to me!
If you could be a fly on the wall in any Ensworth classroom which one would it be and why?
I would love to be a fly on the wall in any class that David Morgan teaches. I have had several students tell me that David’s classes are the hardest they have ever had, and at the same time that he is the best teacher they have ever had. I would love to observe a person that is clearly an expert practitioner of the craft of teaching.
When you are not at Ensworth what takes up most of your time?
Since November 23rd, most of my time away from school is taken up by my son Graham. It is incredible to be a father, and I am constantly amazed by his existence and my own capacity for love (and patience). I have always heard that being a parent makes a person a better teacher, and I can already see the truth in that statement. Here’s to fatherhood and all of the adventures it will bring!
Who is the next Red Gables faculty you would like to see profiled?
Rose Pickel mentioned our time together in China. Another member of that trip was Cris Hempel, and I am consistently amazed by the wonder, enthusiasm, and dedication she brings to educating young children. It amazes me to think of the skill it takes to maintain the attention of a class full of 5 year olds, and I would love to know more about Cris!