Class Acts: A Q&A with Amy Sensney

A.J. Ward nominated Amy Sensney for Class Acts. Ward said Sensney is a math teacher extraordinaire who regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure her students grasp each concept. Sensney will dance, tell jokes and sing if necessary to develop a love of math in her students. In addition to her teaching skills, Sensney is a role model for strong, capable, respectful women, Ward added.

• Name: Amy Sensney

• Age: 29

• City of residence: Modesto

• Occupation: Sixth-grade teacher at Somerset Middle School

• Family: Parents, Bill and Cathie Peck; husband, Ryan Sensney

• Education background: Bachelor's degree from University of California at San Diego; teaching credential from Sacramento State University

• Teaching experience: Seventh year with the Sylvan Union School District; also taught at Sylvan Elementary

Why did you get into teaching? My mom is the most dedicated and creative teacher I know. Her commitment to fostering a love of learning in each of her students is inspiring. My dad, a math teacher for 32 years, instilled in me a profound love of math.

What is your favorite part about being a teacher? Recently, my favorite thing has been coaching the sixth grade Math Blast team. I worked with a wonderful group of bright and motivated students. They were a pleasure to teach, and it was fun to explore challenging math concepts with them.

What is the most challenging part of your job? The current financial crisis is very distressing, knowing that some of the most caring, talented and committed people I work with have received pink slips and may not be returning next year.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I like to use technology in my lessons. Lately I have been using student clickers (Classroom Performance System) in my math lessons to help assess student understanding and guide my instruction. The kids enjoy using them, too.

What advice do you have for students? Work hard and push yourself. The more you learn and the more involved you are, the more doors will open for you.

What advice do you have for parents? Get excited about math. Even if it wasn't your favorite subject, your attitude has a lot to do with their success.

How do you reach students not interested in school? I work hard to get to know them and help them understand that they are an important part of the class. I try to find ways to make them feel successful and rely on that wonderful feeling of learning something new to motivate them. Sometimes kids need that extra push to make them realize they can do it.

What one area should schools put more emphasis on? Sports and clubs. When students find their niche, they are much more likely to be successful in school.

If you could change one thing about the educational system, what would it be and why? I would keep K-3 class sizes at 20 and lower class sizes in all other grades. Small classes give teachers the ability to tailor their instruction to the unique needs of each of their students.

What are your plans? I would like to teach math at a higher level, perhaps eventually move on to a high school or junior college.