EAST MANATEE -- When students answer a question in Mary Anne Maginot's math class at Nolan Middle School, they stand up tall and confident -- they're not allowed to sit slumped in their seats.
They're also not allowed to use the words "stupid" or "idiot" to describe themselves or others.
"We don't ever," she says to one student who called himself stupid after getting an answer wrong. "That is not what we do in here."
In addition to her teaching, Maginot is the Math Department head at the school. As one of the school's original employees, she helped get the school up and running. She organizes the annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser, which benefits the math department, and coordinates the annual "Pi Day" celebration.
Maginot, 63, is one of four teacher finalists for the Manatee County School District's Excellence in Education award this year.
'You teach character'
At first run, Maginot was going to be an accountant. But after one job, she knew it wasn't for her.
"I couldn't see myself sitting behind a desk, without people," she said.
Maginot has taught for the last 36 years, 25 of them in Manatee County public schools. She also helped open Haile Middle School, and taught math at Lincoln before that. She treats her students like her own children, and holds them to high standards for their work and their behavior.
"You not only teach math, you teach character," Maginot said.
Students learn to work together in Maginot's class, from going over homework assignments to playing games while reviewing for tests.
In her sixth-grade class, the stu
dents are split into three teams, each working with a partner. There's an upcoming test and the game is meant for review. Maginot puts a question up on the board, and while every student on the team has to answer the question, one set of partners has to finish the problem on their whiteboard, then transfer their work to the main classroom whiteboard. One student does the work, the other student completes the check.
The first team to finish correctly gets a point, and Maginot reserves a bonus point if everyone on the team gets the question right on their individual whiteboards.
When students make a common mistake, Maginot will remind them of what they've learned.
"We cannot leave our decimals in the last chapter, we have to bring them here with us," she said. "If you do it on one side of the equation, you have to do it on the other."
Outside the classroom
Maginot is the leading charge in organizing the school's spaghetti fundraiser, and they're working on getting each math classroom an overhead projector. With the help of her husband, Jim, a district manager for Burger King, the annual spaghetti dinner is put on by students and staff. The students serve as the wait staff.
"It's amazing, they just love it," she said.
The spaghetti dinner has just hit its third year. Maginot remembers being really overwhelmed the first year, as more than 800 people attended the event. She had to scramble to guarantee there would be enough food for everyone who wanted to support the math program.
Part of the proceeds help benefit the school's annual "Pi Day" celebration, held on March 14 each year. "Pi" is a mathematical constant, represented by a Greek symbol, that stands for the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. Most students and schools use 3.14 to measure Pi.
Each year, Nolan students compete to see who can memorize the most digits in Pi. Students who memorize at least 50 earn a free shirt. Students can also pay to purchase shirts if they fail to memorize enough digits. The competition starts in the individual classrooms, then moves to each grade level and, finally, on Pi Day, the top students from each grade compete schoolwide. Last year, a student memorized 523 digits to take the top prize.
"I love my job, I love what I do," Maginot said.
Maginot is also active in her church, the Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle Church.
As Maginot hits 25 years in public education, she says, the questions about retirement have started. Instead, she talks about finding efficient and effective ways to integrate more technology in the classroom.
"I keep thinking of all the things I still want to do," Maginot said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.