Chemistry Teacher Takes Math Class at MHS


Ryan Bixby, chemistry teacher, doing a worksheet in his Honors Algebra 2 class, taught by Katelyn Dauster. Bixby is the first teacher at MHS to take another teacher’s class.

When Supraneeth Yedem, freshman, walked into his Honors Algebra 2 class at the beginning of the year, he was surprised to see Ryan Bixby, chemistry teacher, in the seat next to his.

“At first, I didn’t even realize he was a teacher,” Yedem said. “He didn’t look like a student, because he’s tall and looks older, but I didn’t know. I was really surprised.”

Once Yedem figured out that Bixby actually was a teacher, he found it cool that he was right next to a teacher in his math class.

“He’s pretty chill, pretty cool to sit next to,” Yedem said. “He doesn’t really ask me questions, but he’s pretty talkative and outgoing, so we talk during class.”

However, Yedem says sitting next to a teacher he could potentially have is a little weird, especially when getting back grades.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, because he’s a teacher,” Yedem said. “He’s probably going to do better than you, maybe get a little disappointed if you don’t do so good.”

Ryan Bixby, chemistry teacher, has been toying with the idea of taking a math class at MHS, since many of his students ask him math questions throughout the day.

When we have work days, or kids are in my room before school finishing up math homework, I would try to help them, and I couldn’t. I felt like a mathematical idiot, so I wanted to understand the material. ”

— Ryan Bixby

“When we have work days, or kids are in my room before school finishing up math homework, I would try to help them, and I couldn’t,” Bixby said. “I felt like a mathematical idiot, so I wanted to understand the material. I was looking through, and Algebra I? Crush it. Geometry? Crush it. Algebra II? That’s where I start to get a little slippery.”

So Bixby asked Principal Dr. Greg Mathison at the end of last school year if he could take the class himself and relearn all of the material.

Dr. Mathison said Bixby’s request to sit in on another teacher’s class was definitely unorthodox.

“I wasn’t really sure how to respond,” Dr. Mathison said. “It was kind of refreshing to know that a teacher wants to continue to learn.”

Dr. Mathison said the prospect of having another teacher in a classroom in which they were learning, rather than teaching, was something he wasn’t too sure about.

“There’s some things for me of how this was going to look and how students were going to see that there was another teacher in their classroom taking their class,” Dr. Mathison said. “And also, having a colleague teach you, and seeing them teach you every single day can potentially put them under a microscope.”

“When I initially asked, the administrators were a little reluctant,” Bixby said. “They said that you’ve got to walk a real fine line because you’re a teacher in the building, but you’d also then be a student. They wanted to make sure that the teacher was comfortable, but also that there was no negative impact on students or teacher.”

Once he’d bounced the idea off the honors algebra II teachers and they were open to it, Bixby started sitting in on Katelyn Dauster’s third hour algebra class.

However, this was not Bixby’s first time taking a course taught by another teacher in the same building. While Bixby taught at Lafayette High School, he took a chemistry class with Roger Fisher, and AP art history with Jean Peters.

“[Fisher] had been teaching chemistry for 30 years, and he was just this phenomenal chemistry teacher, and a lot of my teaching style comes from techniques I picked up from him,” Bixby said. “Peters had been a teacher for almost 40 years. My junior and senior students just gushed about how amazing she was. She taught me how to still relate to kids as you get older, and how to be a good teacher while still being a fun one.”

Bixby said he thinks he’ll continue to take math classes here, maybe pre-calc next year and calculus after that

“Since I started in the first place, I might as well keep going,” Bixby said.

Overall, Dr. Mathison said it has been going really well so far.

“I’ve been checking in with Bixby from time to time to see how he’s doing in the class,” Dr. Mathison said. “This whole thing is in the same vein as the collegial walk-throughs we’ve been starting up. Teaching techniques can be shared, and just getting to know other teachers in this big of a school is a nice bonus as well.”

Dauster said she has been enjoying teaching Bixby so far.

It’s fun! The students are really getting a big kick out of Bixby being in class,” Dauster said. “He asks them questions when he doesn’t understand something, and the other students help him out.”

Dauster also said she was at first intimidated by Bixby in her class.

“But he really is in the classroom to learn. He asks questions in class when he doesn’t understand something, and I think his questions really help the students learn,” Dauster said. “And he has come in to look through his test with me, and we’ve talked through his mistakes.”

Dauster said she hopes Bixby’s presence in her class will teach a life lesson. Dauster said. “I also hope students are realizing that you are never too old to learn. Bixby can be a real example,” Dauster said.