The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Teacher breaks math barriers with SE students

By Jamil Oakford/se news editor

Part one in a five-part series on winners of the Chancellor’s Award for Exemplary Teaching, an annual recognition of professors who impress and inspire their students.

Math is the dreaded core curriculum class every college student must face.

Thanks to an instructor on SE Campus, who won the Chancellor’s Award for her excellence in teaching, taking math isn’t so painful.
Math assistant professor Brunilda Santiago wants students to look at math differently.

“My classes turned into an AA meeting,” she explained. “’Hi, I’m John, and I’m taking this class seven times.’ I make a lot of jokes to help them relax.”

Santiago strives to help students finish math courses needed to complete college, something that has been important to her from an early age. New York-born Santiago moved to Puerto Rico and studied at the University of Puerto Rico.

She noted that her initial major was pre-med up until her pre-Calculus course.

“It was positive peer pressure,” she said.

After changing her degree to pure mathematics and moving to Arlington, she went back to school to earn a lifetime public school teaching certificate in math and Spanish.

SE student Nikia Tamplin receives individual tutoring from math assistant professor Brunilda Santiago. Audrey Werth/The Collegian
SE student Nikia Tamplin receives individual tutoring from math assistant professor Brunilda Santiago. Audrey Werth/The Collegian

“I didn’t want to acknowledge my interest in the education field,” she said.

She started her teaching career at Bowie High School. She moved to Florida and then back to Kennedale before accepting a full-time position at TCC in 2008.

Though she enjoys teaching college more than easily distracted high school students, Santiago doesn’t let up with her passion for students to succeed in her math courses.

“I try to brainwash you for free. You don’t have to like it to do well,” she said.

Former student Sheila Tupker, who still receives math tutoring for graduate school, finds Santiago’s teaching style effective.

“She’s relatable, and she has a sense of humor,” Tupker said. “Her sense of humor, her laugh — I thought to myself, ‘This is a math teacher?’”

Santiago isn’t afraid to put high expectations on her students either.

“I tell them that if you feel like you’re going to fail, let me go ahead and mark it in the gradebook,” she said.

Last year, SE student Moises Casalinovo took College Algebra with Santiago and was impressed with her style.

“She’ll do everything in her power to make sure you understand and pass her class,” he said.

And Santiago’s passion stems as far back, citing that it was exciting to explain math to people.

“If I know it, I can explain it,” she said. “If you don’t talk to me, I don’t know where you are.”

When asked the benefits of students learning math, Santiago gushed about all the possibilities.

“It’s difficult to quantify how many analytical skills are granted through math. We are giving your brain exercise, and there’s no telling how we’re elongating your life, no charge,” she said.

She pointed out that the analytical skills gained through math courses could be extrapolated and used in other courses as well.

Winning the Chancellor’s Award was both exciting and surprising for Santiago.

“I’ve been here for five years. I was proud to represent the Hispanic community as well,” she said. “It always feels good to be in a position to help show others that it’s possible.”

Though the Chancellor’s Award came as a shock to Santiago, both of her former students were sure she’d receive it.

“I knew she’d be one from the first day of class,” Casalinovo said.

Tupker was happy other people were noticing just how great of a teacher Santiago is.

“She has a lot to give, and she gives,” Tupker said. “This is her calling.”

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