J.D. Leslie Graduate Award - 2021

Sarah Chan - Master of Math for Teachers (MMT)

Sarah Chan is the first recipient of James D. Leslie Graduate Award. Sarah began the Master of Math for Teachers (MMT) program in Fall of 2016 and completed it in the Spring of 2020 with exceptional grades and a job which involves math and computer science outreach and professional development. She provided the story below about her journey from grief and depression to a successful career here at Waterloo where she can instill a love of learning in others.

Reflections from Sarah

When I first learned about the MMT program my life was beginning a downward spiral into grief, loss, and depression. I had recently left my job as a full-time high school teacher in order to start a family, only to become diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

Sarah Chan and family
I really struggled with my sense of identity and my purpose in life. I had no plan for moving forward and frankly no interest in doing so.

When I thought about the MMT program my mind would wander back to the “good old days” when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo. I talked about the program a lot, wondering if it was possible for me to be a successful student again or if too much time had passed.

The part-time, online nature of the program appealed to me. Mainly because I could work from the comfort of my own home (and on bad days the comfort of my own bed) as I processed the physical and emotional highs and lows of fertility treatments.

I didn’t actually apply, however, until about 4 years later when my dearest friend boldly said “If you just did it instead of talking about it, you would be done by now.”

Once I made the decision to actually do it, things started changing in my life rapidly. A month before classes were due to start I learned that we had an adoptive match and would be bringing home a baby. When I was two-thirds of the way through the program, I started a full-time job. My last two terms took place during the early stages of a global pandemic. I ran out of steam. It was tough, but I was determined to finish what I had started. Now I have a new degree, a job that I love, and a 6-year old that I love even more.

Even though I studied math and computer science, I learned the most about myself, my resilience, my skills, and what I have to offer. My current job involves math and computer science outreach and professional development. Through workshops, resource creation, contests, and now teaching an MMT course, I get to use my experiences and knowledge to instill a love of learning in others.