The Educator Spotlight recognizes those who contribute to the education of local students. Educators were chosen by consulting with site PTA, student government organizations and staff. Educators were chosen for their reputations with students, staff, parents and the community.

Marae Cruce just began her 13th year teaching, and her 10th at Santa Monica High School. She went into education to spread her love of mathematics. At Samohi she has taught various levels of math: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, as well as served as the department chair for the last five years.

Cruce has multiple reasons to be excited about this new school year — “about 150 of them actually,” she says. “I am always excited to meet my new students!” She is also excited to be a part of a collaborative geometry team. This will be the second year she’s worked with her collaborative partner and she believes they “will be able to do great things in our classroom.” She also plans to incorporate more writing into her classes. “It is great when can students can solve a problem, but their understanding goes much deeper when they are able to explain or defend their answer,” she says.

Outside of school, Cruce loves to travel, exploring and learning about other cultures. She enjoys talking with students about their current and/or future travel plans. “The world is a big place meant to be explored,” she says.

Cruce Speaks

One of the best parts of working at Santa Monica High School is the large, talented, inspirational staff. I love learning from and with my colleagues and I am regularly inspired by my colleagues and students. Working with the talented group of educators at Santa Monica High School, inspires me to be better and constantly reflect on my teaching practices. Through conversations and professional development alongside them, I have evolved into the teacher I am today. Topics I am passionate and active about include equity in access to classes and resources, as well as the power of a Professional Learning Community. I am involved in various committees and teams, working to make Santa Monica High School a high functioning Professional Learning Community with a focus on student learning.

I find myself inspired by my students. Listening to their stories of struggles and successes inspires me to thrive to be my best for their sake.

So often phrases such as “I cannot do math” or “I hate math” can be heard muttered from people of all ages. I want to help young adults change this opinion and culture. I want them to see the beauty of mathematics and help them reach their potential. My hope for each of my students is for them to become confident thinkers and problem solvers. I believe the most important thing they need to learn from my math classes is how to reason and problem solve so they are prepared to take on and solve the situations they encounter in their futures.

Rather than having students just memorize steps and blindly follow them, the emphasis has rotated to students relating concepts, understanding why formulas exist, and various ways to approach problems. In line with these standards, I do not give my students steps to follow and have them practice going through the motions. Instead, my students spend more time investigating and explaining why formulas or theorems work.  I guide them through the process of creating their own plan to solve various problems. I require them to compare methods and choose the best approach to solving a problem. My students do a lot of noticing and wondering about diagrams, situations, equations, etc. Through this questioning process, I have found that students develop more links between concepts, stronger problem solving skills, and start thinking like a mathematician. My overall goal is for students to feel what productive struggle is and come out of the experience through perseverance. I want them to build self-confidence in their abilities so they will feel equipped to rise to these challenges.

My favorite part of teaching is watching students gain confidence in themselves as they grow and learn throughout the year(s). I love hearing where they go and what they are able to accomplish. I feel appreciated when former students stop by to talk or share news after they have moved on.