Singing the Praises of Kate Nowak

See Kate.

See Kate blog.

I have been given the great honor of writing our dear Ms. Nowak a letter of recommendation. One thing I wanted to do was talk about how Ms. Nowak is core node in our little learning community here. She writes, and tweets, and responds to emails. Indeed, she is our fairy blogmother.

I was hoping to enlist… I mean… coax a few of you to write a few sentences about Kate. Specifically how Kate has impacted you as a teacher — in a large way or a small way. Whether it be that she provided you with resources, great advice, gotten you started blogging, talked you through a dark time, showed you games that work splendiferously in your classroom, gave you the secret to perfect skin and eternal youth, kept you interested and excited in teaching, whatever. I’d love to include these in my letter, so that we may sing Her praises as She deserves them to be sung.

So throw them in the comments. This will probably be a temporary post, taken down after I have completed the letter of recommendation. So throw them in the comments soon! (HURRY HURRY HURRY!)



  1. Kate is always a person you can count on in the PLN. She not only offers math assistance when you feel a problem can’t be solved, but her sense of humor is what really shines through! I look forward to reading her adventures in the classroom because she inspires me and makes me laugh at the end of the day.

  2. As a principal and now assistant superintendent, my job is to lead others forward and insist on making significant progress – even when others don’t want to take the risks necessary to do so. Kate is the rare math teacher that seeks multiple relevant, meaningful ways to reach her students and the rare educator who puts her honest, humble, transparent thoughts out for the whole world to see. Being able to grab her thoughts and share her struggle with math teachers in my school and district has been and is one of the most valuable tools for making change. It’s truly because she is so honest that we all listen and connect. She says what we want to say – but for some reason cannot. She crosses that invisible barrier and creates dialogue in arenas that have previously been untouchable. Her courage, modeling, and genuine passion to be a great teacher at the core (and consistently posting those thoughts) allows me to move other math teachers – ultimately this leads to better instruction for kids. What an amazing impact for such a young educator!!

  3. I’ve just jumped on the blog-o-ship in the last few months, and its the best move of the 2000’s for me. I’m such a lopsided teacher, and seeing/thinking about the work of other teachers does wonders for my teaching.

    Specifically the many ways K.Nowak for her kids to practice is a great boon to me. It’s more than just resource worksheets – she generates practice structures that get kids doing, thinking, and talking math. She’s amped up my class times many times just this semester!

  4. I just recently started reading blogs. A dear friend of mine recommended Kate’s blog and I have been hooked ever since. I can always count on her blog to provide me with new ideas or new ways to think about/do the same ‘ol things. She inspires me to be more creative in my teaching than I ever would have been on my own. I’m thankful that her blog was shown to me. It has now become a core part of my teaching resources.

  5. She is always available for help and is just a fascinating person. I know students often have a hard time realizing their teachers are “people” and freak out when you see them in the store or anywhere outside of the classroom. Sometimes I feel like that for this online community. Many blogs just point out some super-special-rainbow-unicorn lessons or interactions with students and it feels like I could never be like any of you guys. Kate (and you, Sam) is great about letting us see the mixture of how to get there. A great balance of personable and professional.

    (Although if I ever get to NY and in the store I see either a rainbow colors knit cap or hear a woman cursing like a sailor about giving hugs, I’ll still freak out.)

  6. Kate’s blog was one of the first blogs I subscribed to. I’ve been loving reading her stuff, and she certainly has contributed to my growth as a mathematics teacher.

  7. a) @ CalcDave – yes, Kate will definitely be embarrassed by this.

    b) Kate is an artist with classroom structures that provoke student dialogue by building in self-check of the work. (See

    c) Kate’s blog has an awesome combination of down-to-earth practicality and eye on the big picture. (The above posts are super practical with accents of big picture; these ones –
    – are more of an even balance)

    d) She’s got that funny acid wit thing down pat.

    e) As has been noted above numerous times, she is The Fairy Blogmother. I met Kate Nowak at a conference and now I blog; it’s more or less that simple. (I often indulge the fantasy that she is my fairy blogmother.)

    f) I have written about Kate’s awesomeness before –

  8. Kate has meant more to me than I could ever type on this tiny device. She is always there with a witty comment, sympathy, a wonderful math lesson or game (even a Top Gun quote if necessary). Her honesty and transparency about the daily grind of teaching are endearing and inspiring. She teaches and then shares on her blog with unmatched intelligence and creativity. Thanks, Kate Nowak, for all you do for your students and for your fellow teachers.

  9. I’ve been reading Kate’s blog on-and-off for a while now, and it is always enlightening and inspiring. I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and it’s really hard to not get in a rut. Kate inspires me to try new things, and think about things in different ways. Most of the issues she is dealing with in New York, we deal with in Washington (state). Some days it’s a good reminder that we all work hard to help kids “get it” and kids are the same everywhere.

    1. Sorry, Kate. I know it can be rough when we’re being brutally honest about you.

      Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

  10. Kate is an amazing colleague to have around, even if that around is exclusively online. She shares the ups and downs of teaching, both by telling stories about hers and by responding when others write about theirs. When she hears about other people’s issues she is able to strike a balance between troubleshooting problems–helping strategize ways to improve–and, occasionally, letting people vent about a situation that they can’t do anything about.

  11. Kate is an exemplary professional. The effort, thought and caring she invests in her students and their learning is visible from across the internet. And then she models true professionalism by sharing her reflection with the whole community with amazing honesty. The humor and charm is a bonus, but helps her to be the leader in the community that she is. Her kind-brand of professionalism has even extended to some of my student teachers in West Michigan. They were impressed and honored.

  12. From personal to professional, Kate Nowak has impacted my teaching tremendously. Everybody has a math topic that they find troublesome. For some it’s probability, for some it’s partial differential equations… for me it was logarithms. I couldn’t do them in college and almost failed calculus because of it. But they didn’t haunt me again until I had to TEACH them (oh crap!!) I searched the internet for days for some way of teaching logs that I would understand so that I could explain them. Then someone on Twitter mentioned Kate’s method of introducing logs by using the word “power” instead of writing “log”. All of a sudden a light went off in my head and I got it. FINALLY! And I knew if this made sense to ME, it would make sense to my students. I used this “power” method to introduce logs and WHAM – they got it, too. From there, properties and solving equations with logarithms were a breeze for my students. I’ve used it for 3 semesters and I always hear, “This is the easiest thing we’ve done in Algebra 2!” I am forever in Kate’s debt for this one simple idea posted on her blog. And she blogs about the good AND the bad so you know she’s not some super teacher who never has bad days, too. She’s always honest.

    Kate’s posts on Twitter always add something extra to my day. Her classroom stories and witty comments always make me smile. After a frustrating day of expanding binomials, I told my students about her poster: “When you distribute an exponent, God kills a kitten.” My students laughed, but they don’t make that mistake anymore. Not many people could come up with something so disturbingly funny but extremely effective. But she can also relate to you through your troubled times as well. No matter how crazy your teaching life is, Kate can relate to what you’re going through and always has the best advice (along with a really snarky/sarcastic comment about something else to make you laugh).

    So basically I think Kate is one of those teachers that just ROCK. So she better get whatever we’re nominating her for or I’m going to go distribute some exponents until she does….

  13. I don’t know Kate, but I read many education blogs. Hers is one of the few I put on my blogroll as a recommendation for others to read. (I read dozens of blogs, but I’ve only put 9 up on my blogroll for being consistently interesting.)

    (Before you get miffed, Sam, yours is there also.)

  14. Kate helped me get started blogging. It was a big step for me, and I had lots of questions. She was patient and clear, and really helped me get rolling.

    She’s also a great mathematician. It was a delight to work on math problems with her at the Summer Math Circle Institute.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s