On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Love for math adds up to teaching honor

crosenbl@centredaily.comNovember 13, 2013 

Max Besong, right, a Bald Eagle Area Middle School math teacher, shows off his Penn State student teaching award with Greg Kelly, the Penn State College of Education associate dean for research, outreach and technology.

PHOTO PROVIDED

While teaching math, Max Besong kept a few tricks up his sleeve.

At Besong’s suggestion, a soccer player struggling in class rested his feet on a ball for encouragement during tests. Another time, Besong noticed all his students liked the “Angry Birds” video game.

“I created a lesson that revolved around that, showing how the birds make parabolas in the air,” Besong said. “I had their attention the whole class.”

His innovation and dedication recently earned him kudos from his alma mater.

Besong, who grew up in Snow Shoe, received the Fall 2012 Outstanding Student Teaching Award for secondary education from the Penn State College of Education. The recognition came at the college’s Alumni Society Awards Banquet and left him floored.

“I couldn’t imagine anything like that beforehand,” Besong said. “Penn State, it’s been my life for years.”

Before he graduated last December with a degree in secondary education mathematics, Besong completed his student teaching practicum in the Bellefonte Area School District.

Among his classes were AP Statistics, Algebra 2, Honors Algebra and Algebra I. They gave him chances to be inventive, but collaborating with a middle school gifted program teacher truly allowed him to stretch out.

To illustrate the solar system’s vast distances, the teachers took students to the high school baseball field. Each student became a planet, arranged to scale on the field from the “sun.”

The scale was chosen carefully so that the outer “planets” remained within earshot.

“We had to make sure all the kids were close enough so that we could talk,” Besong said.

He’s just the creative type, a game developer whose Twitter profile proclaims: “I bring crazy ideas to life.”

While a Blue Band trumpet player at Penn State, Besong created a gaming app called “Fight on State.” Players help a drum major dodge obstacles and collect points, and also can make online donations to Thon.

So far, he said, the app has more than 18,000 downloads.

“That was one of the craziest things I ever attempted while student teaching and being in the Blue Band: Just not a lot of sleep for those four months,” he said.

He’s working hard now teaching eighth-grade math at Bald Eagle Area Middle School, but he couldn’t be happier.

Teaching, he said, “just felt like the right thing” for him. He credits his education for steering him to the classroom.

“Teachers have always had such a great impact on my life,” he said. “I just sort of want to return that and hope that I can do the same with coming generations.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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