By Annette McLoughlin
Good teachers inspire and motivate, and can even alter the trajectory of a life. A case in point is Rye Middle School math teacher Aleksey Vodyanitskiy, “Mr. Vod”, if Russian is not your first language.
Born in Novosibirsky, Russia’s third largest city, Mr. Vod moved to the United States in 1995 after winning a scholarship to attend Hartt School of Music in Hartford. He went on to receive two master’s degrees, one in Computer Science from CUNY and another in Education from Pace University.
“I began my teaching career in a New York City Teaching Fellows program, a wonderful organization that recruits professionals from various fields and trains them to teach at high-need schools in the city,” he said. “I taught for two years in Manhattan and one year in the Bronx.”
For the past eight years, Mr. Vod has been teaching math and inspiring students at Rye Middle School. His passion and creativity are legendary, and when you pass by his classroom you are likely to hear the sound of music.
He makes math magical — and memorable — with a seemingly endless trove of goofy songs. And his students love his approach, and adore him.
<Open your eyes!
Open your ears!
Unwind your brain
So, you can see
The discriminant is always equal to
While it may be hard to imagine a group of self-conscious 13-year-olds singing math rules out loud, they do. Fellow Math teacher Caitlin Stein sees the impact of his unorthodox methods every day. “He is <the> math teacher that all the students know, and his chants are catchy and helpful for all.”
RMS Principal Dr. Ann Edwards places a high value on his approach. “Aleksey Vodyanitskiy is a talented, creative, and devoted teacher. All of his students have great affection for him and their affection for math is ever growing.”
<When finding the vertex of a parabola
The turning point of parabola’s way:
X will be equal
X will be equal
Negative b over 2a (hey!)
Negative b over 2a.>
The secret to Mr. Vod’s success? Like anyone who is first-rate at his or her job, it’s his passion for the work. “I love math and very much enjoy working with my students whom I care deeply about. I like to make class fun: we sing, we dance, we play math games and conduct math experiments. We also laugh; humor goes a long way.”
On the other side of the humor is a respect and candor that children appreciate. “I value my students’ trust and do not take their respect for granted. On the other hand, my students know that I do not "sugarcoat" and if they do something wrong I will tell them how it is. I like to think they appreciate my honesty.”
And luckily, Mr. Vod enjoys a good challenge — in this case, young teen-age students. “I love the excitement, the changes and the challenges of the middle school age. I also love the fact that the Middle School and High School are connected, because I enjoy running into my former students. And I still remember all of their names!” It’s not uncommon for former students to stop by his classroom after school, either for a little clarity on a tough segment of higher math, or often, just to sit and catch up.
For Mr. Vodyanitskiy, the greatest reward is seeing his students succeed. “I do not define success as a number grade. I see it as a hard-earned progress, built by hours of dedicated work.”
RMS Math teacher Aleksey Vodyanitskiy with students