A New Face in Math Lab: Sarah Jeong

You’re tearing your hair out over your Geometry homework. You’ve turned this triangle in every direction imaginable but you still can’t figure out how to write this darn proof. You don’t have a study hall that aligns with your teacher’s prep period and you’re just about ready to give up and take the docked formative grade for not completing your homework. Suddenly, a lightbulb appears over your head. A wave of serenity washes over you. You climb the stairs to the third floor tower and enter the safe haven of T310: Sarah Jeong’s math lab.

     Jeong is the new math tutor at Oyster River High School (ORHS), hired to provide extra math help to students in Pre-Algebra through AP Calculus. While she is new to this position, Jeong is no stranger to teaching math. Before this school year, Jeong spent three years teaching seventh grade math in Somersworth and Barrington, and she has about ten years of experience as a private math tutor for high school students. That calm feeling I described doesn’t go away when you walk into Jeong’s classroom, either. If anything, it grows—Jeong emanates an air of gentleness, warmth, and patience that makes even those of us who struggle with math willing to sit down and try a problem again.

     I interviewed Jeong for this article during a busy shift of supervising Flex overflow in the cafeteria, a few stories below her usual environment. After calmly but confidently signing in the line of thirty-plus rowdy students, Jeong sat down with me at a slightly sticky table to tell me about her life and aspirations. One thing was clear to me from the beginning: Jeong’s love for both the subject of math and teaching it to others. Later that day, I observed Jeong working one-on-one with students in math lab, and I noticed how much care she put into assisting each student with their individual needs. There was no judgement in Jeong’s voice as she slowly worked through each problem with her students, pinpointing the exact right way to explain an equation so they could reach the correct answer. I was seriously impressed (and made a mental note to come back next time I was studying for a math test).

     While Jeong seems like a natural at teaching math, it was not her initial career plan. She always took and enjoyed advanced math classes while in school, but graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in environmental sciences and pre-med. After undergrad, she attended medical school for one year, but then “life happened” and she changed her path. Several years later, Jeong’s family moved to Durham, and a neighbor asked her to help tutor their child in math. Word spread quickly, and soon Jeong was tutoring more and more students on top of being a stay-at-home mom.

     Jeong said that when she started tutoring, “I remembered how much I enjoyed studying math when I was younger. Just explaining the math to kids and seeing them understand and be successful was really rewarding for me.” After this realization, Jeong got her teaching certification from Granite State College and began working in schools.

     Jeong enjoyed teaching seventh grade math and said she “built really good relationships with the kids.” Still, she is excited about making the move to ORHS. Because she has so much experience tutoring high school students privately, she feels comfortable with the curriculum and age group. She is also curious whether teaching high school math might be in her future, and is tutoring at ORHS to gain exposure to the high school setting. Plus, as the parent of one Oyster River graduate with two children still in the district, this job puts her much closer to home.

     Outside of teaching, Jeong said a hobby she has taken up is gardening. “I’m getting really interested in getting to know different plants and flowers and what works well in our garden. There’s a lot of joy in watching things grow. I think that’s related a lot to teaching, too, and why I like teaching and helping kids,” Jeong said.

     This love for encouraging growth is definitely felt by Jeong’s students. Lindsey Morin (‘25) has known Jeong since she was in seventh grade, when Jeong was in her first year as a math teacher in Somersworth. She said that even when students in her class were difficult, Jeong “was always very patient, very kind, and very willing to help you with anything anytime you needed help.”

Jeong helping a student in Math Lab

     Now that she’s in high school, Morin said she sees Jeong often for math support. “She’s very helpful and I think I’ve had a better understanding of what I’m doing since seeing Ms. Jeong,” said Morin.

     Math teacher Katie Johnson also vouches for Jeong’s effectiveness as a math tutor, saying she “seems to have great mathematical knowledge.” Johnson said that this early in the year, only a few of her students have visited math lab, but those who have are “doing well” as a result.

     Johnson added that because Jeong has taught several students from Barrington in middle school, “a lot of students were already familiar with her before this year. I think that’s an added bonus for a lot of students.” Where Jeong already has relationships with many students, they feel more comfortable going to her for assistance.

     Math help is not the only thing Jeong offers to her students. Morin said she also likes seeing Jeong in math lab because “I just enjoy her company. She’s easy to talk to.” Morin said Jeong is “one of those people that just sits there and listens. She doesn’t always give her input—she knows when it’s needed and when it’s not needed. She has children of her own, so she knows how to sit there and make sure you feel like you’re being heard.”

     To benefit from Jeong’s help, students can pop into math lab during almost any period of the school day. Whether you need help with a concept or just want to get to know her better, Jeong said it is a good idea to come to math lab. “I want to encourage students to use the math lab if they feel confused at all. It’s good to come in earlier and try to get help before the problem gets too big,” said Jeong. If a student comes into math lab, they can expect a lot of individual attention while Jeong assists them with any questions they have on their homework or class.

     Morin said she “one hundred percent” recommends that other students go to math lab to get help. “I don’t really like math,” Morin said, “but I don’t mind coming [to math lab] because I just know every time I come here, Ms. Jeong’s going to be one-on-one helping me until I understand it.”

– Zoe Selig