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  • Francis Commey

Christian Robles: Adapting to what students need

Teaching is more than just lecturing students on math for Christian Robles, a teacher at Northfield High School. “Teaching is about building relationships between teacher and student,” he said. “The way in which you relate to your students and the tools you use to communicate ideas and concepts is vitally important. The more you teach, the more you develop your own unique method of expression that will ideally strengthen those relationships.”

Christian Robles' journey toward becoming a teacher began at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. He did not initially envision himself becoming a teacher, but rather entering the world of business. However, while running the mathematics lab there, he was given the opportunity to teach a differential calculus course by the department chair. It took him by surprise, but he was encouraged and reassured by the department chair. She had complete faith in his ability to make a positive impact in the classroom. From there it was history. “Little did I know I loved it. Being able to teach those students about my subject was an amazing and fulfilling experience,” he said.

Christian felt that he needed to experience teaching in high schools after teaching undergraduate courses for a few years. He began this part of his journey at a college prep school in Ponce, Puerto Rico. “I never had an intention of becoming a teacher, but early on I had good teachers that saw a lot of potential in me and suggested that I should give education a try,” he said. “Fifteen years have passed since. It’s been quite a ride.”

Over those 15 years, Christian has never stopped learning about teaching too. He routinely seeks out workshops to help him grow. “I feel that workshops [and] conferences also provide teachers with invaluable networking opportunities that can further enhance our overall growth and improvement,” he said. “My favorites are ones that focus on implementing different learning strategies in the classroom.”

This approach to professional development has given Christian an adaptable teaching style. It allows him to adjust to what each student needs to succeed. “I simply prefer an individual approach to teaching, and I alternate between being an authority, demonstrator, facilitator, and delegator,” he said. “Maybe it is not a conventional method, but so far it has been working great.”

He likes to emphasize visuals in particular in his classroom. He said that diagrams, charts, and pictures really help him and his students work with the material. “You can easily demonstrate concepts in a different but fun way,” he said. This extends to the way his classroom looks. “Math without colors is no fun,” Christian said. “Students are allowed to be themselves and show creativity in their way or form, they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas without fear and shame.”

Speaking of fun, Christian also allows his students to have the freedom to socialize within the class as long as it’s productive. It helps “by allowing students to work at their own pace without feeling rushed,” he said. The underlying goal is to create a classroom that creates self-confidence rather than one that removes it. His own teachers did this for him and he’s trying to pay it forward now. .I can relate to students because I struggled as a student myself. But I had good teachers who always saw something special in me, and never let me give up,” he said. “That’s what I strive for now as a teacher. I don't and will not let my students give up.”

Photos courtesy of Christian Robles

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