With 43 nominations — more than any other teacher — Mrs. Merida was awarded a $1,000 grant through Four Peaks for Teachers, an Arizona-based non-profit funded by Four Peaks Brewery. Mrs. Merida has been teaching math to Mount Carmel students for six years and is known for engaging students with her upbeat energy and interactive lessons, her love of unicorns, and all things "mathmagical."
She will use the grant to provide additional "mathmagical" supplies to her classes, such as reusable and consumable manipulatives. For example, Mrs. Merida distributes individually wrapped Twizzlers to help students better conceptualize the concept of an infinite geometric series. "It's hard to visualize how the sum of an infinite sequence can add to a finite number, so we take a Twizzler and split it in half," she explained. "Then we split that half in half, and that half in half, and so on. This makes it more tangible and less abstract to understand how all these halves, which go on into infinity, can eventually be added back up to a finite number — or one Twizzler."
Mrs. Merida's hands-on philosophies help make math more accessible to her students. Senior Taylor Bridevaux, one of the 43 people to nominate Mrs. Merida for the grant, appreciates all the extras that make her lessons memorable and effective. "She puts in so much extra work to make math fun and "mathemagical" for us by creating games and alternative ways of learning to get us engaged — and it works!"
The little things Mrs. Merida does for her classes make a big impact. "She always makes us feel safe and okay for asking questions, and she is always available for extra help," Taylor said. "Before our exam, for example, she bought dozens of donuts for all of her students to come in and review or ask any last-minute questions. Not only that, she decorated the donuts on a big rainbow donut holder along with donut pencils and erasers and a sign that said, "Donut forget you are mathmagical!"
Senior Ava Casler feels that Mrs. Merida has taught her "what it means to be a problem-solver." "My confidence and my classmates' confidence in math have excelled this year because of Mrs. Merida," she said.
"She is always thinking of very creative ways to teach us math and life lessons," explained senior Olivia Edler. "Her class is one that all students look forward to and never fail to succeed. She always reminds us that anything is possible."