- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The question before Anthony Myers‘ Algebra III class was this: How do you measure the length of a curve?

On this day, as most days, the energetic, bow-tied Myers isn’t about to divulge the answer easily. As the class got underway, the lanky first-year teacher paced. He bounced on his heels and dashed to his whiteboard to draw a quick illustration and then wandered the rows of desks to offer one-on-one instruction.

“You have to want it,” he urged his 22 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders at W.J. Keenan High School as they begin an exercise to figure out the connections among theta, radians, and, of course, that favorite symbol of mathematicians, Pi.

For the math-challenged, theta is the angle measure in radians. The radian is a ratio of a circle’s arc length to its radius. Mathematically, Myers explained, an angle measures 1 radian when the intercepted arc length is equal to the circle’s radius. Pi plays an important role in the calculations, as his students would soon discover.

That material might be considered rather dense for adults to absorb, much less teenagers, so Myers attempted to interject some real-world information into his lesson, noting that the concept is the same “as when the slice of pizza is the same length as its crust.”

“We are going to have real pizzas?” one student wit chimed in, causing a slight buzz of excitement to run through the classroom.

“That crossed my mind for exactly two milliseconds,” Myers grinned.

But the pizza image remained in the air as the students took bits of string and a compass and calculated exactly how many radians comprise the circumference of a circle. (For the record, the answer is 2 Pi R, with R representing radians.)

“Get that in your brains,” he told them.

Myers, who majored in mathematics at USC and holds a master’s degree in teaching with a concentration on math from the same institution, joined the faculty of Keenan High in August. He had completed his student teaching there the previous spring. Now, at 22, he is the youngest faculty member at the school.

As both a math major and certified teacher, he is a rare commodity in South Carolina, which, like states across the country, is facing a shortage of teachers in the arena known as STEMS: science, technology, engineering and math.

“I think Anthony is a poster child of the type of students we like to graduate,” said Ed Dickey, a professor in USC’s College of Education’s Department of Instruction and Teacher Education who also served as an adviser to Myers. Armed with a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, Dickey is heading up a USC initiative to lure more math and science majors into the teaching field.

Dickey said Myers met stringent math and science expectations of the program, but he also has the particular passion for teaching that makes it a calling. Myers himself said his own deep spirituality has led him to pursue teaching as a vocation. His wife, Cassie, has just completed a bachelor’s degree in art education at USC and hopes to teach at the high school level.

“I always wanted to teach in a public school,” said Myers, who knew at the age of 7 that he would be a math teacher. “I think it’s where I’m needed. I felt God calling me to a public school because there is just more need.”

Plus, he said, there is that wonderful engagement with 70 new students every year who are open to sharing their hopes and dreams, along with their problems. Many students at Keenan come from low economic backgrounds and he sees some struggle to juggle schoolwork while working part-time jobs to help their families.

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