Thomas Heywosz ’18, ’19 came to UMass Lowell from Charlton, Massachusetts, in part for a scholarship to do research with faculty, in part for the Honors College, and in part for the UTeach program, an education minor for students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.
“I knew UMass Lowell really wanted me, and it had everything I wanted,” he says.
Using an Immersive Scholarship, which pays for students to conduct research with faculty or study abroad, Heywosz found a position doing a statistical analysis of X-ray pulsars in the Magellanic Clouds with Math Asst. Teaching Prof. Dimitris Christodoulou and Physics Asst. Teaching Prof. Silas Laycock.
After learning that Heywosz planned to become a high school math teacher, Laycock also asked him to help develop hands-on astronomy lessons for schoolchildren in Haiti. The assignment was challenging, since Heywosz didn’t speak Haitian Creole or French – or know much about astronomy.
But he was willing to learn, and he traveled twice with Laycock to Haiti for the “Astronomy Roadshow.” With the help of translators, they taught concepts in physics and astronomy to students at Sainte Ma-rie des Anges School. For his Honors College capstone project, Heywosz also held a workshop inquiry-based teaching methods for the school’s teachers and adapted the lessons for Massachusetts students.
“It’s amazing how much you can get across just with gestures and facial expressions,” Heywosz says. “That has influenced my experience as a teacher; I can come up with these activities to help emergent bilingual students.”
His Haiti experience and his adaptability served Heywosz well when he graduated with his bachelor’s degree and his initial teaching license. After doing his student teaching practicum at Lowell High School, he was hired there to teach honors math – but at the last minute, district-wide budget cuts eliminated his position. He decided to substitute teach and complete his master’s degree in math while waiting for a full-time position to open up again.
The high school Science Department chair immediately hired him as a long-term substitute. Fortunately, Heywosz was on a teaching team with another UTeach graduate, Marissa Asa, who helped him as he taught a combination of biology, chemistry and engineering to ninth grade students.
“In UTeach, I was in classes with people who were going to teach biology and chemistry, so I had seen their lesson plans and projects,” Heywosz says. “If push came to shove, I would have done English or history. I wanted to stay at Lowell High. You just know when it’s a good fit, like when I toured UMass Lowell: I just knew it was the right choice.”
The following year, Heywosz got his full-time math job. He teaches high honors classes in algebra and geometry as well as an upper-level math class. Once again, he’s in good company – Lowell High’s Math Department includes several other UTeach graduates.
Heywosz serves on one of the high school’s instructional leadership committees, and he’s taking graduate classes in education.
His favorite place, though, is in front of a class, helping students understand that math is more than memorization, that there is more than one way to solve any problem, and that some problems have more than one answer.
And if a lesson doesn’t work? Heywosz is always trying to refine his approach. That mindset, he says, is the legacy of UTeach.
“I always ask myself, ‘Is there something I can do to make this more inquiry-based? Is there something I can do to make this more hands-on?’ Some days, I have to say, ‘No, that didn’t work out. We’ll try again tomorrow.’”