Changing the World, One Calculator at a Time – Kveller
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Changing the World, One Calculator at a Time

I do a lot of things in my life. I’m an actress, a mom, a vegan, a homeschooler. I’m a traditional and observant-loving Jewish mama. I’m also the spokeswoman for Texas Instruments Education Technology. Here’s an example of what I get to do and what it means to represent STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) everywhere TI takes me.

I was in Connecticut this week visiting a high school in New Britain. One of the seniors there named Nicholas “won” me to come teach a class at his school through TI’s “Take Mayim Back to School” contest and campaign. Nicholas also won $50,000 of TI-Nspire CX handheld devices (think graphing calculator but in color, with science and chemistry and physics attachments and probes, and a ton more features, by the way. It’s kind of awesome), TI-Nspire Navigators (which wirelessly network the calculators in the classroom so the teacher can view every students screen, take classroom polls and bring more student interaction into the lessons), teacher training, and other resources and support that will last his large public school dozens of years.

The day I spent at New Britain High School felt like such an amazing connection with what I love to do in this life, no matter what I’m doing or what role I’m playing. I want to connect with people and try and impact them. TI helped me do that as I spoke to not only these students, but also to the incredible dedicated teachers who spend their days basically parenting someone else’s kid: teaching them, disciplining them, and building up their confidence and abilities. It’s a fantastic challenge to be a teacher, especially in a public school. My parents were public school teachers for something like a combined 70 years, and I have such respect for teachers.

I want young girls to imagine themselves as smart and empowered and math and science-able. I want people to see that Hollywood actors don’t just exist on red carpets or as Emmy nominees. I want people to know I’m a real person and that I was raised in public schools and am the proud product of the bussing system of the 1970s and 1980s. Yesterday, I got to express all of that concretely. It felt so good.

Nicholas was so gracious, so sweet, so humble, and so incredibly overwhelmed by all of the cameras in his face, interviews requested, and cheers from his fellow students. He wants to be an astrophysicist and I think he’s going to be a really good one. I met his AP Physics friends and they were all so polite and they had me sign their calculators. I got to spend some time with him, as well as his brother, parents, and grandparents. They were totally flipped out that I was hanging out with them like a normal person, but I didn’t feel like a “famous person” when I spoke to them. I just felt like someone who wanted to hear how Nicholas got interested in science and what made him want to do this for his school since he is graduating soon and won’t even benefit directly from this donation.

I tend to be pretty cynical and kind of Scrooge-y in general, but days like I had with TI in sweet New Britain, CT made me feel like there is still so much good in so many places in this country. There are dedicated principals who love their students and work hard to lift students up and inspire them. There are teachers like Nicholas’ teacher Mr. Pigeon who comes in on weekends to give kids more of him and his wisdom. There are students like Nicholas who, even though his parents are not scientists, is such a math/science whiz who wants to do good for his school and community. There are people every day who give their time and their lives to help make the future better for the next generation of leaders and teachers. I got to see all of it in one school day in New Britain.

I felt so honored to be a part of this day and I am so grateful that I get to be the spokesperson for TI because I get to have my faith in humanity restored sometimes, even if it’s just one Nicholas at a time.

To learn more about Mayim’s various roles, read about her book tour for Beyond the Sling, her appearance at Comic-Con 2012, and how her phone helped a man in need.

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