LMU Graduate Uses Mathematics and Social Justice Education to Advocate for Kids

LMU Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics graduate Wendy Creek ’17, made a big shift in her career. After teaching for nineteen years at the Torrance, California school district, she is starting her own educational consulting business, working with a new population of students: teachers.

Creek’s path to educational consulting has been a winding one. She graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in Musicology. When she returned to the Central Valley after college, her hometown of Bakersfield desperately needed elementary school teachers. She jumped in to fill the need and taught a few years of first, fourth, and fifth grade. Then she moved to Torrance, California and became a sixth grade teacher, prompting her to earn a single subject math credential and later a master’s degree in curriculum development.

In 2014, with more than a decade of teaching experience, Creek started her doctoral program at LMU in Educational Leadership for Social Justice. At the same time, she began the master’s program in Teaching Mathematics to deepen her mathematical knowledge. By then she had become a district-wide math coach for teachers through both the Torrance Unified School District and LMU.

“As a teacher, your expertise is in teaching children,” said Creek, “but you can’t teach children the same way you teach adults.” Creek’s experience at LMU in the Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics helped her pivot towards teaching educators. With both kids and adults, relationships are key. In her experience, kids are willing to give teachers the benefit of the doubt if it’s within the context of a positive relationship. The same isn’t always true with adults, who often have deeply held beliefs and previous experiences that impact their ability to learn new things.

“With adults you really have to think about their lens of experience,” said Creek. This understanding helped Creek learn how to work with educational administrators around issues of organizational change, which is crucial to her work in educational consulting.

Creek feels LMU’s focus on social justice was an essential part of her education. “They have a tradition of working for and focusing on the underserved. That really spoke to me,” said Creek.

As a consultant, Creek is asking important questions around math and equity. “Math is often a gatekeeper in schools,” Creek points out, keeping poor and minority children from taking the upper level courses that lead to better colleges and ultimately, higher paying jobs.

Ultimately, she aims to help teachers develop empathy and cultural understanding around race and class and help them see how those issues relate to equity and access. She also helps coach K-6 teachers who may feel intimidated by math and science, and is currently writing a book for K-6 teachers on protocol for integrating math and science curriculum.

When she’s not advocating for children through quality math education, you’ll find Creek playing the drums, harp, and even a few medieval instruments that allow her to contribute to a local medieval reenactment group. She is still active in a band she started with a group of teachers over nineteen years ago as a joke to prove math teachers can be funny for a school talent show, called “Staff Infection.”