Bound Brook School District alum Earnest C. Wiggins III has always been passionate about teaching and math. The latter always came easy to him, yet it wasn’t his first love. He thought he’d be a scientist. But then, a few things happened.
“When I was in 7th grade, I wanted to be in the math honors class, and I felt I deserved to be there, but the teacher said my (state) scores did not qualify me,” Wiggins said. “That made me just push myself to get better.”
By 8th grade, Wiggins made it into that honors class. The following year he enrolled in the Bound Brook School District’s Biomedical Science Program at the high school. The classes were challenging. But, with the patience and encouragement of his math teachers, the former Bound Brook High School Crusader succeeded. By his senior year, he knew he wanted to be a math teacher.
Now with a total of two years of instruction under his belt, Wiggins is eager to be a part of the “Bound to Astound” team that helped develop him into the person he is today. Indeed, that spirit motivates Wiggins to make learning positive, fun, and adventurous, using everything from scavenger hunts to real-life scenarios to bring his lessons to life.
“Math is being taught differently right now, even from when I was a kid,” the 25-year-old Rutgers University graduate said. “Seeing students come up with their own way of doing it, within the parameters of the rules, is exciting. I like seeing how each student works it out, expressing it in their own way.”
Wiggins uses project-based learning in his classroom. Project-based learning is a student-centered approach that involves more active exploration of real-world challenges and problems.
During one of Wiggins’ classes, students walked around the room, searching for and answering math problems, while in another, they created boats out of popsicle sticks to determine the speed of travel and which design would float. Wiggins, a basketball coach at the high school, even had students in one class take free throws and calculate the percentages of their successful shots.
“It gets them moving around instead of just sitting at a desk all the time,” Wiggins said. “I like to switch things up a little bit and plan interactive activities to keep the students engaged.”
These alternative ways of delivering instruction are part of Wiggins’ teaching style and an extension of his self-described “down-to-earth” personality. He added that as an educator, teaching is not just about instruction.
“I really try to give my students all of myself,” Wiggins said. “I feel I am very authentic as a person, and I hope the students can genuinely see that I have their best interests in mind.”
Like many educators, Wiggins basks in seeing that “ah-ha” moment students experience when they understand a lesson. It’s likely why he can’t yet see himself doing anything else for years to come. After all, it is, as he said, “kind of why I do this.”