Teachers We Love

Five educators share treasured takeaways from their years on the job.
Leonda Archer, Wash Liberty Hs

W-L math teacher and rapper Leonda Archer (Photo by Skip Brown)

Leonda Archer

Math teacher
Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington
Years teaching: 19

Originally from North Carolina, Archer previously taught math and coached boys’ basketball at Gunston Middle School in Arlington, and held teaching and coaching positions at Mark Twain Middle School and Thomas Edison High School in Alexandria. Find her math raps on YouTube

In third grade, I remember feeling unnoticed and inarticulate at times. I had a teacher who made me feel seen, intelligent and empowered. My hope is to facilitate this same encouraging experience with my math students by providing opportunities for them to express their abilities in creative ways.

For an end-of-the-year project while I was teaching Algebra 1 at Twain Middle School, I asked students to create mind maps, board games, posters, PowerPoint presentations and other creative demonstrations of understanding. One group of eighth-graders produced a rap song. As a surprise, I decided to remix one of the songs that was submitted. That was the birth of my math rap writing career!

[Check out her 2020 welcome back rap, “It Be Like That Sometimes.”]

A few years later, I arrived at Gunston, where I met a student who told me he made and produced beats. I explained that my husband, Brian, produces music and that we have a studio set up in our home. We started devoting our Friday lunches to freestyling and making beats. Simultaneously, I began writing a rap called “Power Rules: The Laws of Exponents.” The students would give me suggestions on how to breathe and structure songs. We ended up making a video starring my students. After hours of filming in the hot sun, editing, and lots of fried chicken and sweet tea, we completed it and posted it on YouTube.

The most satisfying part of teaching is creating experiences where students can be creative, challenged and feel empowered. I enjoy watching students’ confidence in their math abilities rise, and being a part of their continued growth as they develop their passions and talents. At the same time, I’m being pushed to be creative about how I deliver content. To rebrand math as fun and cool. –Tamar Abrams

Categories: Education