**Mr. Pratarelli has gone above and beyond to help his students to accomplish their goals.**

**Nicholas Pratarelli** teaches AP Calculus BC, a class he believes is so difficult that only a few students dare to take. He has been guiding and pushing students through the rigorous work of Calculus BC for eight years. He additionally teaches College Algebra and Integrated Math 3.

Pratarelli graduated from Colorado University of Boulder twice, in which he earned both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Mathematics. Pratarelli obtained his Bachelor’s in 2005. Then, five years later, he procured a master’s degree, further enhancing his expertise in mathematics.

Pratarelli found a job at Thomas Jefferson in 2016. Before teaching at Thomas Jefferson full-time, Pratarelli substituted at other schools in the Denver Public Schools area for a year and a half, substituting at every high school in DPS, as well as other districts like Jeffco. However, when he subbed at TJ, Pratarelli enjoyed teaching at this school the most. Pratarelli said, “I recall that when I substitute taught at TJ, it felt different, I can’t describe this feeling, but it felt different from all the other high schools [where I substituted].”

Before Pratarelli became a substitute teacher, he participated in many things. For example, he used to make delicious bread at many bakeries including Panera, Whole Foods, and Watercourse Bakery. Additionally, he traveled across the United States and Canada, herded sheep in Italy, and attempted to ride his bicycle to California from Colorado, but only made it to Montrose Colorado. He also got a job on a boat in Hawaii.

Pratarelli’s favorite math subject to teach is calculus because of how interesting math is. He believes that calculus is a different form of math than the other math subjects offered at TJ. Pratarelli stated, “I want [my] students to appreciate that there is so much more to [math] than the math you see in middle school and high school.”

One of Pratarelli’s toughest things about his job is knowing if he is doing a good job of teaching. He explains that “just because a student has an A plus in my class, it could mean different things. For example, they sat in front of a YouTube video, [meaning] that I hadn’t had a big effect on their learning.” Furthermore, when he sees a student failing his class he thinks that “I am not giving them the opportunity to show what they know.” These aspects are what makes Pratarelli’s job difficult and sometimes frustrating. Another challenging aspect is that all students learn in different ways. Furthermore, he explains a way to work around this issue; “I try to build a relationship with that student, and then figure out what that student needs and then we work from there.” He then reflects that, although being in the classroom may be challenging, “I feel like I wouldn’t feel as bad as if I had the same bad day surrounded by adults.”

For Pratarelli’s lower level math classes, he wants his students to have some basic math literacy/numeracy skills and come out with respect for numbers, but they do not necessarily have to like the math they learn. On the other hand, he wants his students to understand how fascinating math is the more advanced it gets. Across all of the math classes Pratarelli teaches, he wants his students to respect the subject of math because “if we respected students’ learning and growth, math would be taught in the same way art would be.”

One of Pratarelli’s favorite things about his job is that he gets to stay in the same room every day. He explains that, unlike other jobs, being in the classroom is unpredictable because of how dynamic the environment is in a classroom. He explains that in an office environment, tasks can be very tedious and boring, while in an academic setting, making lesson plans, engaging with students, and experiencing new challenges makes his job more fun. In other words, being in the same class is less tedious and boring because of the unpredictable environment in a classroom compared to an office job. Another thing that Pratarelli likes about his job is that when a lesson does not go well, he is able to learn from the flaws so the next time he can do better.

Pratarelli explains the importance of math, with one pessimistic view that countries need to compete with others. For example, one country may compete to produce more engineers than another, and everyone needs to be mathematically literate to build a highly skilled workforce. The other angle addresses how math can be viewed as not everyone’s strong suit, and they may not choose to become an engineer. Instead, they might pursue careers in some other profession like a doctor, or electrician. However, a broader viewpoint on math that students should consider is how every subject creates a different way of thinking. This applies to concepts outside of school like car mechanics. Learning processes to solve a math problem are like learning the processes of fixing a car that won’t start. Pratarelli explains, “Just as fixing a car requires diagnosing the issue, identifying the parts involved, and following steps to repair it, solving a math problem involves a similar solving process.”

Pratarelli explains the difference between AP Calculus BC from AP Calculus AB; BC is harder because it is a more intense class. The class covers almost the entirety of AB in Semester 1 of the course, while in AB the curriculum covers less over a wider span of time. Also, in BC, the class can not go into as much depth as AB because there is not enough time. Pratarelli likes to consider AP Calculus BC a college level course, while AB is more of a high school class. He refers to the difference between a high school class and a college class as “in high school we really do cover a few topics and we try to get students to get a deep understanding of it while in college every class is basically a survey of a ton of information that you research and BC is very much like a survey, as BC covers topics from Calc 1 and 2.” Pratarelli emphasizes that BC is not better than AB, as high school students may not be ready for the challenging coursework that a college class has. He then goes on to explain that the way students become successful in college classes is to “be reflective about your learning.”

Pratarelli likes to read, ride his bike, and try to play video games. However, ever since he had kids, he has less time to partake in these activities in his free time. He was in shock about the decrease in time to do hobbies since becoming a parent. He says “You never really understand until you have children.”

Ever since he was a little kid, Pratarelli never imagined becoming a teacher. But, when he got into his 30s, he then decided that teaching is the right career for him. One could say that he became a teacher through luck, considering that TJ’s past calculus teacher had a baby, and decided to leave Pratarelli to acquire a permanent job here at TJ. Pratarelli now strives to educate students through the confusion and frustration born from difficult math problems.