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"A Teaching Moment" Interview: Mr. Moresco

By Kendall Higgins and Jasmine Chen :

“A Teaching Moment,” Episode 2: Mr. Moresco

Mathematics teacher Mr. Daniel Moresco

Mr. Daniel Moresco attended Boston College, where he double majored in education and math. He teaches mathematics at Belmont High School.

Please note that this interview has been edited for clarity by the Highpoint staff.

Jasmine Chen: Are you from the Boston area?

Daniel Moresco: I went to Reading High School; I’m actually from the Middlesex League. I didn’t go far.

Kendall Higgins: Why did you want to become a teacher?

DM: That’s a good question. I figured out that I wanted to be a teacher maybe my sophomore year of high school, and I will note that I am the exception, not the rule. The majority of students that go in change their major at some point, and quite frankly, even if you major in something like economics, you don’t know what kind of job you want. I was the exception: I figured out early on I wanted to be a teacher.

KH: What during high school caused you to feel that way?

DM: My dad was a teacher, so I’m sure that played a role in it. At the same time, I always enjoyed working with kids. My first jobs were at camps and I’ve always worked with children younger than me, [even in] high school. So I always kind of knew that’s where I wanted to go.

JC: Is there any moment where you felt most proud to be a teacher?

DM: I will tell you, my proudest moments are the little victories you all experience everyday, so I can’t point to one, but if I’m working with a student and they really put in the work and they’ve been struggling and all of a sudden they do really well and they’re proud, I’m proud for them. Or it can be something as simple as [when] there was a topic that was super confusing and all of a sudden a student figures it out and they get excited, then I get excited by that too. So it’s little stuff like that that I feel proud of you all for.

KH: In general, how important do you think higher education is? I feel that recently in America there have been big movements to recognize that not all students must go to college after high school, so what’s your view on post-high school paths?

DM: This is really complicated. I want [there to be] and wish there [were] more paths for students who do not want to pursue a four-year degree after high school. That can be anything: two-year degrees, associate degrees, trade schools, going right into the workforce. Quite frankly, I do think that eventually we will get to the point where industry circumvents the university process. Say I want to go into computer science. I could imagine a day when, instead of going to university for four years and spending tens of thousands of dollars, tech industries [would tell high school graduates] to sign up with them and [would] guarantee you a job if you came on their satellite campus and did a year of whatever. I could see that happening. The day that happens is a huge day for America because I think that would really open up doors for kids who don’t want to do a four-year program. At the same time, I teach the Social Justice class and we look at different trends and there is a definite correlation between having a four-year degree and one’s economic mobility. Do you move up the socioeconomic ladder, do you sustain your place, or do you actually fall down the ladder? So I do know there is a bias in our economy towards a four-year degree. I don’t think it’s right. I think that a four-year degree is important but I would want there to be more options for kids. It’s a larger-scale economic argument that would need to change. That [question] is a hard one. At the same time, there’s pressure [on students to] think that not all four-year degrees are created the same. [You all sometimes think], “If I don’t get my four-year degree from these five schools, then I must have failed in my life.” That in itself is not true… so even the mental framework surrounding four-year degrees is important. There is a bias towards [the mindset of], “I must get my four-year degree from these programs or these schools, and every other school doesn’t count.” And that definitely is not true.

JC: Amidst the outbreak of the Omicron variant, what are your thoughts on teaching remotely compared to teaching in-person?

DM: For me personally, nothing replaces working in-person with you guys. We did an okay job approximating math class last year – don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad; I thought that our math class was good and I had a really fun time doing it. But there’s nothing like a student being able to say, “Mr. Moresco, here’s my work, can you look at it please and find my mistake?” Me being able to kneel down and say, “Oh hey, this is where I see your mistake, try that.” That’s what was lost last year, because it would be, “Let me take a photo of your work. Let me send it to you,” and then I would look at the photo and I would have to somehow circle and type out what I [thought]. That was a process I don’t miss, and nothing replaces in-person learning. Now, I do understand the stress around safety and students missing extended periods of time. I would love to see us figure out a way to support students like that a little bit better, but nothing beats in-person.

JC: Do you see any areas for improvement in our math curriculum?

DM: I do. We at Belmont are a part of a larger system that is, quite frankly, [built around] standardized tests and university admissions. We need to make sure that for the state and the SATs and ACTs that we keep our scores at a certain level, and for MCAS that we make sure students pass to graduate. For students who want to go to university, they need to take Calculus. Or, I shouldn’t say they need to take Calculus, but they need to be on the track so they’re prepared for calculus because many universities, for whatever reason, require a semester of calculus no matter what your major is. I have seniors and every year I ask them what they want to major in and, if they know what their program is going to be, to tell me about their core requirements. [A calculus requirement] is still in the overwhelming majority, even if they are not majoring in STEM. They have to take a semester of calculus in college, so that means we have a track that you need to be on in order to be ready for that next set of expectations. If that didn’t exist and if universities were more realistic – [say] you’re majoring in data science. Wouldn’t it be great if in your senior year you took Statistics or a data science course? That’s the next phase that I wish we could get to, but we are sort of boxed in by the larger system of ensuring that you are ready for university. In terms of the standardized tests, [it would be great to not simply cover] every topic that’s in the core curriculum framework, [but instead] it would be so great to be able to take some of what we do and do it in more depth… to really explore it. That would be awesome, but again we have to cover x, y, and z because the state says so or the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics says so. That kind of thing, I feel, boxes us in a little bit.

KH: What are your thoughts on midterms this year?

DM: I think midterms are important because, again, at university you are going to be taking courses where you have a couple exams in a semester and that’s it, so we’ve got to get you ready for that. But also in math, it’s good to have a checkpoint in the year, because all the stuff builds on each other, so we need to make sure that we are all on the same page before we go forward. With that said… this year itself has been choppy, with Omicron now and everything. I would be totally open to taking this year and doing it in a far-lower-stakes way. But I still think some sort of check-in [would be helpful]. Whether it counts for less, it’s a shorter [version, or] we don’t commit days [to it]… isn’t for me to decide. We can have a faculty conversation but I am totally open to exploring ways to make it lower-stakes for you all so you don’t feel stressed about it.

JC: Have you taught in other towns?

DM: Yes, I taught in Woburn for a little while.

JC: What was that like compared to Belmont High School?

DM: Yeah, so Woburn’s different. Woburn is in the Middlesex League; however, it is very different. It’s almost like a small city, and I think it even goes by the City of Woburn. In terms of its socioeconomic levels, Woburn has a little bit of a different student body than what Belmont, Lexington, or Winchester have. So we had more students who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and in my time in Woburn that might have affected their day-to-day [lives]. If you’re thinking about stuff going on at home, you might have less focus or less energy to put into your studies, and so there was a lot more work I would do around that. Also, what was different in Woburn specifically for math was that you would take Algebra I in the ninth grade. So it was a very different sequence. It was different – not bad different, just different.

JC: What is one piece of advice you have for Belmont High students?

DM: I tell this to my seniors every year, and I say it to my sophomores as well, so I’m going to combine two things. At the end of senior year in May, the seniors have made their decisions. Do you know what every senior that I encountered is? Happy. Some of them maybe got into their first-choice school, some of them maybe got into their second-choice school, some of them maybe decided to take a year off, and maybe somebody decided not to go to university altogether. Every single one of them is happy, and just about every single one of them that I’ve talked to says, “I wish that I hadn’t made this decision because I made it [thinking that] I needed it for a transcript.” So I say [this] to you every year: when you are making decisions about your courses and what you want to participate in outside of class, do it because you like it; do it because you are excited about it; do it because you are enthusiastic about being apart of it. Don’t do it because you think that some university is going to judge you a certain way for having done x instead of y or because your friends at the lunch table are going to say, “Wow, why didn’t you sign up for blank?” None of that stuff matters, and I know that at the moment it’s really hard to be fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years old and see that, but as someone who’s gone through the process and sees kids go through it every year – make decisions because you are happy with them and not because you feel forced into them. It’s not worth it. Do what makes you happy instead. Don’t make decisions because you think you have to meet some standard. Make yourself happy. Do what’s right by you and your family at the end of the day.

KH: Lastly, what is your favorite type of cereal?

DM: Today I ate Chocolate Frosted Flakes mixed with Captain Crunch in the same bowl with milk. That is one of my go-to combinations. I love that. I also really like Corn Pops. So I also will have Corn Pops and Chocolate Frosted Flakes. But Chocolate Frosted Flakes.


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