In honor of Math and Statistics Awareness Month, we sat down with Rodolpho Loureiro, the UA’s Math Program manager. Rodolpho supports teachers across the UA network in math instruction, curricular needs, data literacy, and runs the UA’s signature Algebra Success Program. Prior to joining the UA, he served in numerous school-based roles, including being a math teacher, grade level dean, and a Principal. Check out what the double-ivy league math wiz has to share about his journey and the importance of student-centered math education

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, right underneath the Christ the Redeemer statue.

When did you come to the U.S?

I moved to the United States at the age of 11, when I was in the 6th grade.

Why is education important to you?

Coming to the United States, my family was pretty poor. We had our two suitcases, barely any money, and no connections, but (we had) an abundance of hope for a better life. It was scary not knowing how we would eat the next day, but my mom assured me that I should, “simply worry about getting good grades, and everything will sort itself out.” I believed that wholeheartedly and it got me to where I am today.

Why math? When did you realize that you had an affinity for math?

Ms. Buchanan, my 6th-grade math teacher, is one of the main reasons why I love math so much. In my first year of school in the US, she took care of me and advocated for me. I stayed after school with her often, and she made sure I understood my homework. She made sure that I was doing my best. I attribute my career in education to her. She even visited me during my first year teaching in Wilmington, DE (see picture).

What was your college experience like? What did major in? What extra curricular activities were you involved in?

My four years at the University of Pennsylvania played a pretty monumental part in figuring out who I was as a person. I majored in Marketing and Management as a student, so I originally had no intentions of being a teacher. However, being part of my fraternity (La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc.) changed that. We volunteered a lot with organizations in West and North Philadelphia, doing tutoring and other community service projects. That was the most fulfilled I felt, so I knew that I had to make the switch.

What were you up to before joining the UA?

Before joining the UA, I started my career as a 6th-grade math teacher in Wilmington, DE. After two incredible years there, I moved to Newark, NJ to become a founding teacher, which was an incredible experience! Being a founding teacher was a lot of work, but impactful work that helped shape the school. I was able to see that school grow as a math teacher and ultimately as an Instructional Fellow (equivalent to an AP) of the school. Then I was asked to lead a middle school in Brooklyn, which was a wonderful experience that made me love the art of cultivating and developing teachers to their fullest potential. Everyday was different and exciting, and everyday I got the pleasure to learn from so many teachers, students and families.

What do you currently do at the UA?

Currently, my title is Math Program Manager, meaning, as you may have guessed, a lot of the math supports for our schools. The main support comes through the Algebra Success program, which provides curriculum, assessment, and professional development support to 8th and 9th-grade Algebra teachers. So in short, we provide teachers with a curriculum that is centered on student discourse, a complete assessment system for all students to measure student achievement, PLCs that are focused on improving pedagogy and increasing student discourse in the math classrooms, and individualized coaching.

Algebra Success program, which aims to make teachers better math teachers and in your training, emphasizes identity and honoring the backgrounds of students through instruction. What is your opinion on culturally relevant learning?

Not making learning about the students and for the students is a disservice to education. If a student does not feel seen and heard in their classes every day (and this can be through curriculum, instruction, and many other policies), they will not connect with the content and thrive to their fullest potential. We must make our students feel loved and accepted in our classrooms, make the content accessible and relatable to them, and provide avenues to engage them and allow them to make meaning of their own learning.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

That varies from day to day, which is exciting! My day typically focuses on observing up to two Algebra classrooms a day, providing them with feedback and other support the teacher needs (that support ranges from curriculum planning, student work analysis, etc.). The rest of the day varies - I could be refining our curriculum, planning for upcoming PLCs, reviewing and responding to assessment results, learning some of the best pedagogical practices, and much more.

How are you supporting teachers and staff in light of COVID-19?

I think teacher support during the pandemic has varied significantly since its commencement. Sometimes teachers are simply too overwhelmed and need someone to vent to and listen to them, and that is completely ok. But supports vary significantly from teacher to teacher - I have helped teachers set up their Google Classrooms, taught them how to use appropriate interactive tools for virtual learning (like Nearpod and Desmos), progress monitored student’s grades, and continuing to find ways to make the virtual classrooms feel like in-person classrooms, reviewing student work, and much more.

What is your work/leadership style like?

I’d like to think that I have a coaching leadership style. I thrive on helping people become the best versions of themselves and lead through a lot of listening and asking lots of questions.