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Meet Your Mentor: Math Instructor Kim Llewelyn

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June 2, 2017

By Tori Flores, Public Information Office Work Study

Math instructor Kim Llewelyn grew up only three miles from South Seattle College, near Madison Junior High. After high school, Kim attended the University of Washington for her undergraduate where she focused her studies on physics. She then attended Western Washington University for a graduate program in adult education. Before becoming an instructor at South, Kim was a tutor at MAST (Math and Science Tutoring Center) for two years. Kim has now been teaching at South for twenty years, and focuses her teaching on developmental math courses including Math 94, 95, 98, 102, 141 and 142. Look for Kim next time you are seeking homework help in MALL (Math and Learning Lab).
I  caught up with Kim to ask some questions about how she got into teaching and how she approaches her craft.  Enjoy!
Q: When did you first become interested in calculus?  
A: I had one of the best math teachers growing up, which is the reason I eventually became a math instructor. When I first took calculus I just crashed and burned on the first exam…I mean dramatic, flaming, crashing and burning! I had a very disheartening and discouraging professor at that time. I began to feel like I wasn’t that great at math anymore. So I dropped the class and didn’t take math for a year. Then I decided to try calculus one more time, and ended up being taught by the best teacher I’ve ever had.   

Q: What made you want to teach at South Seattle College?
Back in the old days, South had paper course catalogs which they’d mail out to everyone in West Seattle. I was in the mailing area so I got one and I was flipping through and saw an ad saying, “Do you want to be a tutor?” I was like, “Yeah I need a job!” So I got hired to tutor in MAST, and tutored there for about three years. When I graduated I thought, “I’ve been tutoring for three years at MAST so maybe I’ll just become a teacher.” So I got hired on as a teacher and here I am. It’s actually pretty accidental and it’s been 20 years. I’m really lucky.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve had an impact on the students that you’ve taught? If so in what ways?
A: Yes, I think I probably have. I became a math teacher because of one great teacher that I had. And I believe I’ve been that same inspiration for three of my students. I’ve had three students of mine go into teaching math because of me.
In general, students come out of high school math with like lots of trauma. But I’m not a scary math teacher, which sort of amazes me because I’m not the most outgoing person in the world! I teach developmental courses like Math 94 and 95, and they are the top academic reasons people drop out of school. So I see my job as getting people through those early classes so that the math doesn’t stand in the way of what they’re really trying to do.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the students here at South Seattle College?
A: The diversity of the campus, I love it. The first year I taught at South, I had students from 31 different countries. It’s way more diverse now than it was seventeen years ago. I’ve had students bring an entire Afghan meal to office hours and feed me this amazing food, and show me pictures of their lives in Afghanistan and where they grew up. They’ve tell me about what’s it’s like being a woman in Afghanistan, and the Taliban coming in when you’re trying to go to school. These are amazing stories that I get to listen to, and I can’t even fathom how hard things were. I’ve had so many amazing conversations with folks in terms of what it’s like to grow up outside West Seattle. It’s so fascinating… and that’s what makes this fun, because otherwise I’d just stand here and talk about algebra for 20 years. It’s really about interacting with students and helping students. Everyone has such interesting experiences if you actually stop and talk to folks. That’s probably my favorite part of the job.