Many new students arrive at Salem State without a clear academic plan in mind, sampling a variety of coursework to decide on a major and concentration. Angie Palencia Maldonado, however, had a specific goal in mind from the start. After completing her 4+1 BS in mathematics and M.Ed in secondary education, she hopes to return to her high school in Chelsea, joining her former teachers as new colleagues.
The Road to Salem State
As a high school student, Salem State was Angie’s first choice to start her path to a career in teaching high school math. An admissions counselor had visited Chelsea High, and Angie toured campus with her class. To help manage costs, she completed some of her initial credits at Bunker Hill Community College, then transferred to Salem State. This year, she will be working on graduate-level education coursework while simultaneously completing credits for her bachelor’s degree. In the spring of 2024, she will have completed both her bachelor of science in math and her master’s in secondary education.
As a standout math student in high school, Angie was both surprised and excited to discover the complexity of more advanced math material. “There is always a challenge, and you have to be ready,” she said. “Everything is so connected. I’ve used nearly every concept that I’ve learned from each class in the courses that followed.” She was surprised to learn how much she enjoyed probability and statistics, and she was fascinated with the complex logic of abstract algebra.
Even with the pressure of demanding material, the support of the close-knit math faculty helped Angie to rise to the challenge. “All the professors are just wonderful; they all know me by name and I know I can drop in to their offices for help,” she said. In particular, professor Julie Belock helped Angie to conquer geometry and further develop her organizational skills to juggle multiple deadlines.
“Even though I just hated geometry and I really struggled, she wouldn’t give up on me and she was so encouraging. Now looking back, I am so happy that I stuck with it. Even though I don’t love it, I really appreciate geometry now,” she recalled. “Julie is such a non-judgmental person, but she is really strict with deadlines and taught me how to stay more on top of everything.”
Angie was offered a tutoring position in the math lab, and soon the Sullivan Building became her second home. The math lab is a free drop-in service for Salem State students struggling in any area of math coursework. The willingness of students to be vulnerable in an area where they needed help was inspiring. She often tells visitors, “You’re not ‘bad at math’, you’re just not there yet, and we’re going to figure it out together.” In recognition of Angie’s contributions to the math department, she was awarded the Jane Claffey Service Award last spring.
As she works towards the completion of her Salem State chapter, she encourages potential math majors to “just go for it”. “It is hard, but so worth it… get to know the faculty well because they’re wonderful people. You’ll be surprised how you fall in love with what they have to teach you.”