Raquel Vallines Mira, Ph.D., Department of Mathematics
"I love teaching," says Dr. Vallines Mira. "I really like the ah-ha moments, the moments when you see the lightbulbs coming out of their heads." Dr. Vallines Mira studied math in Spain and Finland, with the original goal of becoming a mathematician. "I realized halfway through that maybe math alone was not enough, so I minored in education and fell in love with it," she explains. Dr. Vallines Mira next pursued her Ph.D. in Math Education in Montana, where she worked with teachers on Native American reservations. When she returned to Spain, her advisor from Montana called. His new job was to rebuild the math education program at UTSA and he wanted Dr. Vallines Mira to help. That was six years ago.
Today, Dr. Vallines Mira is a Lecturer 3 in the Department of Mathematics. She coordinates and teaches math content courses for future elementary teachers. "How the students see math when they come in and how they see it when they come out is really interesting," she says. "Our goal is not to just teach them new things but to unveil the conceptions they have and see how that affects what they learn and how they teach it." For example, her classes add, subtract and multiply in base five instead of base ten. This takes students out of their comfort zone. "When they come back to base ten, they see it with a whole different set of eyes," she says.
Dr. Vallines Mira also collaborates with her colleagues to conduct research that helps them build and improve their lessons while studying their own approach to learning. "I believe math educators are life-learners," says Dr. Vallines Mira. "This process is helping us focus the conversation instead of just talking about learning in general." The group’s goal is to create mindfully designed lessons, based on their combined experience and supported by research findings, that they can share with new colleagues. "It’s both practical in the way that we are building good lessons and on the other hand we are learning about ourselves and hopefully becoming better educators," she says.