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First-Year Math Teacher Zeros in on Continued Success


Clare Award

Clare Bunton (B.A. ′21, Mathematics Secondary Education) had a passion for becoming a teacher for as long as she could remember. During her middle and high school years, that passion grew into a love for mathematics.

“As I gained knowledge and experience about teaching mathematics, I realized the discipline offers something much more important than numbers,” she said. “This led to my teaching philosophy that mathematics has the ability to allow students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve them well in all their future endeavors.”

Western Michigan University’s reputation as a teaching school was a key reason Clare chose the University. “WMU has made such a big impact on my career as an educator based on the mentors I gained in the program, as well as providing me with experiences that helped me feel prepared for my first year of teaching,” she said. “As a first-year teacher, I have former professors who I can go to for advice and who truly care how I am doing as a teacher and person, which I am so fortunate to have.” 

Clare specifically mentioned the positive influence Drs. Allison Hart-Young (Secondary Education), Jon Davis (Mathematics), Amy Bentz (Secondary Education) and Summer Davis (Secondary Education) had on her throughout her academic journey. About Dr. Hart-Young she said:

“She is the reason why I am so passionate about public education. She ignited my passion for equitable education and helped me grow my confidence in all facets of my life. I continually go to her for advice and to share good news!”

Along with benefiting from outstanding faculty, Clare also gained meaningful leadership skills from her involvement on campus. In addition to serving as a student ambassador in the Office of Admissions, she was a learning assistant for Student Success Services, a fall welcome ambassador and first-year experience co-facilitator in the WMU Office of Transitions and held several roles with the Western Student Education Association (now known as Aspiring Educators of Western Michigan University).

Scott Hennessy, Senior Associate Director, Outreach, and Natalie Faculak, Assistant Director, Events, made a memorable difference for Clare when she worked as a student ambassador at WMU. “These two people were incredible mentors and pushed me to become the leader I am today,” she said.

Being an active and engaged student, combined with experiential learning opportunities like a study abroad trip and internships, enabled this recipient of the 2021 Undergraduate Rising Star Award to feel more career ready. “My student teaching experience and internships like Pathways to Science Teaching helped me feel prepared to teach a range of learners at Wyoming High School,” she said. “I am thankful for the experiences WMU allowed me to have because they made me feel confident and ready to tackle my first year as a math teacher.”

Clare with StudentsToday, Clare teaches Algebra 1 and Math Skills at Wyoming High School and was recently chosen by the Knowles Teacher Initiative as a member of its 2022 Cohort of Teaching Fellows. The Knowles Teaching Fellowship is an intensive and cohesive, five-year program that supports early-career, high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise and lead from the classroom.

Scholarship support, particularly for her study abroad trip to Ireland, helped Clare build the foundation she needed to thrive in this next chapter.

“I learned so much about the education system, sustainability, and social justice issues in Ireland,” she said. “It showed me the importance of learning about education outside of my own bubble to ensure I am always reflecting on what will make my teaching most effective for my diverse students.” Study Abroad

Regarding stepping beyond one’s bubble, she encourages current Broncos to do the same.

WMU is filled with so much diversity and so many unique opportunities and this is a time to explore all the possibilities,” Clare said. “You are only an undergraduate student one time in your life, and I promise you WMU is a place where you can make incredible connections and memories that you will never forget!”