Kay Toliver takes you through a first person account of the fundamental principles of her teaching methods and techniques used in her classroom. This article was first published in the Journal of Negro Education in 1993.
“I have always believed that the best way to get children to learn is to make their studies relevant to the world outside the classroom. Now, if one of my students gets excited about something I am teaching, he or she can use the Internet to research how that particular kind of math is used in the world.”
– Kay Toliver
For the first time ever online, watch an episode from the acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning classroom series. It’s about length and area, a bulldog named Hector, an eccentric Italian director, and, of course, Kay Toliver and “Eddie.” This 22-minute episode is a staff favorite! Enjoy!
Teacher Talk with Kay Toliver
To view the full Teacher Talk Series with Kay Toliver, click here.
Kay Toliver Bio
I was born and raised in East Harlem and the South Bronx. I am a proud product of the New York City public school system, graduating from Harriet Beecher Stowe Junior High, Walton High School and Hunter College (AB 1967, MA 1971) with graduate work at the City College of New York in mathematics.
Becoming a teacher was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. My parents always stressed that education was the key to a better life. By becoming a teacher, I hoped to inspire African-American and Hispanic youths to realize their own dreams. I wanted to give something back to the communities I grew up in.
For more than 30 years, I taught mathematics and communication arts at P.S. 72/ East Harlem Tech in Community School District 4. Prior to instructing seventh and eight grade students, I taught grades one through six for 15 years.
My educational philosophy is simple: All students can learn. It is a teacher’s job to expand minds and take children from the known to unknown.
I have made my classroom a place where students can talk without fear, write, manipulate ideas, and listen. I focus upon integrating math with other curriculum areas, for I want students to begin to see that mathematics goes beyond numbers and computation.
Over the years I have shared my knowledge and skills primarily with students. Over the past few years, I began working with teachers as a staff developer for my school district. I am also acting as a panelist and a speaker at educational conventions, when my school schedule permits.
At East Harlem Tech, with the support of my principal, I established the “Challenger” program. Challengers are students who can face any problem in life. The program, for grades 4-8, presents the basics of geometry and algebra in an integrated curriculum. This is a program for “gifted” students, but following my belief that all children can learn, I accept students from all ability levels.
To show teachers throughout the country how I create enthusiasm for mathematics among my students, I have worked with the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE) to create a number of educational video products. These materials include the classroom series “The Eddie Files” and the staff development series “The Kay Toliver Files” and “Teacher Talk.”
Most recently, I have worked with The Futures Channel to present staff development institutes and parent engagement events at schools and districts throughout the country.
Teaching Honors (partial list):
Presidential Awardee Secondary Mathematics, State and National levels
Reliance Award for Excellence in Education, Middle School
Outstanding Teacher for Mathematics Instruction, Disney American Teacher Awards
Fellow of FAME (Foundation for the Advancement of Mathematics Education), Long Island University, a National Science Foundation program to enhance knowledge of mathematics education and provide leadership training.
Featured in the Peabody Award-winning PBS special, “Good Morning Miss Toliver,” the Peabody Award-winning classroom series, “The Eddie Files,” and the staff development series “The Kay Toliver Files” and “Teacher Talk.” (Programs produced by FASE Productions.)
Outstanding Educator of the Year, National Conference on Diversity in the Scientific and Technological Workforce (National Science Foundation).