MULTIPLYING A LOVE FOR MATH
A mind for math and a heart for education add up to a great reward for alumna and faculty member Sousada Chidthachack.
“My mother wanted her children to go to school,” Sousada says, explaining that in her native Laos, women were expected to stay home and do housework instead of becoming educated. Her mother was shamed for attending school and dropped out in third grade. “So the story of me in academia was a long time coming,” Sousada says, “I’ve always thought that I had to go all the way, because she couldn’t.”
The 2006 graduate taught in local schools for five years and is working on her Ph.D. in math education. In 2015, she returned to St. Thomas as an adjunct instructor in the Math Department. Sousada is especially passionate about supporting females and minorities in the math field, noting that she aims to help prevent young females, students of color and marginalized students from being overlooked.
“One of the messages I give my students is, ‘Yes, you can be naturally smart and do well in math,’” she explains. “‘But most of the people who can sustain themselves and do well are the ones who are persistent and work hard.’ That’s what got me here — working hard through my ESL classes and my math classes — and having a really good attitude about education and about life.”
All this has prompted Sousada to begin writing a memoir, The Lesson is Never Just a Number: A Math Teacher’s Journey from the Projects to Pursuing a Ph.D.
“If you follow your passion, you find your purpose,” she says. “And this is my purpose: to talk about how education opens so many doors.”