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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974

Horizon

Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974

Horizon

Upper School Math Teacher Justin Heiges Shares his Passion for Math

Upper School Math Teacher Justin Heiges has worked at Sidwell Friends School for the past 22 years. Having taught all levels of math, ranging from geometry with integrated algebra to advanced calculus courses, Heiges is one of the most experienced teachers in the Sidwell math department.

“My dad was an engineer and a mathematician, and he got me interested in math from a young age, just playing with numbers,” Heiges said. “He was always asking me questions about math.”

Heiges first took an interest in education during his senior year at the University at Buffalo, where he worked in the math help room. While he began teaching calculus to just “two or three students,” they quickly grew in numbers. 

“Midway through the semester, I had a group of twenty people seeing me each week in math help,” he recounted.

After spending the year helping college students, Heiges decided to attend graduate school for education, where he assisted both middle and high school teachers. Following graduate school, Heiges began teaching at Buffalo Traditional School in Buffalo, N.Y. The experience was difficult for Heiges, as the school was located in an underprivileged community where many students did not have access to the same learning tools as students at Sidwell.

“It was challenging,” he recalled, “but a good thing for a person to see and experience as an aspiring teacher.”

After moving to Virginia and teaching at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Virginia for a few years, Heiges began his teaching career at Sidwell Friends in 2002. 

Sometimes you have to rely on direct instruction when I’m proving a new theorem, but if I’m talking the whole time then that’s probably not very fulfilling for the kids.

— Justin Heiges

Heiges believes that it is more beneficial for students to work with their peers when solving difficult problems, as opposed to taking a lecture-heavy course.  

“Math instruction has become more student-centered,” Heiges explained. “Sometimes you have to rely on direct instruction when I’m proving a new theorem, but if I’m talking the whole time then that’s probably not very fulfilling for the kids.”

“You have to put yourself in the student’s perspective,” he continued. 

According to Heiges, the lower levels of math are more challenging to teach. “The more experience and interest students have, the easier it is to teach,” he said. “The freshman-level courses are harder to teach because you have to motivate people in different ways… it’s like the difference between teaching someone how to walk and how to play soccer.”

Heiges especially enjoys teaching Calculus, Math III and Math IV because he is surrounded by students more excited to be there. However, he noted that there are “great things” about all of the math courses Sidwell offers.

“My favorite aspect of Sidwell is no doubt the interactions with the students over the many years that I’ve been here,” Heiges said. “The school has changed a lot, but the thing that has stayed the same is that we have a lot of students who enjoy learning and being challenged, and who are open to trying new things.”

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About the Contributor
Caroline Mohamadi '26
Caroline Mohamadi '26, Business Manager
Caroline Mohamadi is currently a Business Manager for Horizon. Prior to this, she worked as a Staff Writer for the newspaper.
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