Staff Spotlight - Estela Tang Chan
Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in the Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Maths teacher Estela Tang Chan about her teaching career.
Why did you begin teaching?
At the beginning, I hadn’t really considered teaching. When I was in my first years of Senior School, my dream was to be a dentist. After my fourth year of studying chemistry, I found that although I could get a good result, my laboratory skills were very weak so that made dentistry not suitable for me. So after I started my fifth year studying mathematics, I remember my teacher started to give us a lot of challenging questions and that’s when I started to realise that math is a very challenging subject and I really enjoy that.
Although I decided to study mathematics at university, I wasn’t thinking of becoming a teacher at first. But during university I was employed by a high school to be an after school math tutor, and every week I would go to help students with their math assignments. So after a year working there I really enjoyed it, and I decided that I wanted to be a teacher.
What do you enjoy most about teaching maths?
I really love teaching maths because it’s different from other subjects; all the questions are either correct or wrong. There’s nothing about our own opinion and there’s logical reasoning behind every problem or proof. I like maths because it’s a subject where I don’t need my opinion; everything is just the truth.
I think maths is also a very important subject because it is a common language in all of the sciences and technology, especially in AI. Sometimes in Leaving Cert you’ll find that the maths questions are too easy or aren’t immediately applicable to life. However when you begin studying college mathematics, you will see maths in our daily life. For example, when you look at Pixar animated movies, they are all made using mathematics concepts. So I just think that as AI development becomes more and more common, maths is a subject that can never be replaced by technology and I hope that my students will also enjoy it as well.
What brought you to Dublin?
My husband is also a mathematician and found a job here in Dublin 3 years ago. At the time, we were deciding whether I would join him here or if he would join me back in Hong Kong. Every holiday I came to Dublin to visit him and I really liked the Irish people and the environment. Hong Kong is a very crowded city, and here in Dublin everything is very relaxed. So when he decided to stay in Dublin I was happy to come join him here.
Why did you choose to teach at Alex?
Before I went to interview at any schools I would research their websites and social media to get a sense of the school because I really wanted to work in a school that is suitable for me. Alex is a school with a lot of diversity and has a lot of different cultures, which I value. I also really like to play piano and in my research I came across videos of the 150th Anniversary celebration in the National Concert Hall and I really loved the musical environment of Alex. I also liked that there were a lot of activities in Alex and that the school isn’t just a place for students to learn; it’s also about cultivating a whole person.
How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19?
We’ve had to transition into using a lot of new technologies for Covid-19 and the IT department in Alex help us out a lot and give us so much support, which I really appreciate. In the past with new technologies I would think “Will this complicate my teaching or increase my workload?” but now I find that when I use new technology, it makes things simpler. In the past I would have to come in early to print things out, which wasn’t great for the environment either, but now I just need to upload handouts into Google Classroom the night before and students have access right away. They can even look back at previous materials I have uploaded for past chapters and classes. Tests are also now digital since the students take pictures of their work and upload it to Google Classroom, which makes marking much easier. Overall this has helped me to become much more organised.
What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?
It has been very rewarding when students tell me that they have decided to study mathematics at university. I am always happy when I can encourage students to study the subject more deeply.