People From Whom I Learned The Craft Of Teaching

Agnes Azzolino, Webmaster

Back Story


    Hello. This is me, Agnes Azzolino. I usually go by the name Asquared.

    Sorry, this is the best current picture I have of me. When I get a better picture, I will edit the page.

    This page was written to introduce to you those most influential in making me the teacher I am. There is a general chronological order, but, it is not a strict order.

    Hope you enjoy the page.

Dorothy Elizabeth Azzolino, My Mother, My Greatest Teacher

    My mother, Dorothy Azzolino taught me to love and respect my students - the most important lesson.

    But this was not enough. I could learned by example, I could learn by watching her and by practicing what she did.

    Her judgement and example has guided my life and teaching style.

    I turn to her for advise on an issue with a student or colleague. Even at "92 and counting" she has the solution and best advise.


    On my brothers and sisters, I practiced what my mother had taught. They were my first students when we were playing school or not.

    As I practiced on them, I learned to be a teacher.


    Michael Vinik, my son, is the student who has taught me the most!

    He and I never think the same way. He doesn't write notes (as I do) -- it takes to long because he prints. Now I give printed notes to all my students through the web.

    He doesn't write his math computation. He did all computation in his head. As a young child, he would sit at a banquet we would be attending and count the number of rectangles the tiles made in the ceiling, not the number of tiles, the number of rectangles that could be made using the tiles in the ceiling.

    When we took physics together, he'd do the vectors in his head and I'd draw and compute on paper.

    He had a strong and real emotional reaction to homework. Doing it was painful and took an extremely long time because it was so distasteful. MANY of my students have a fear and a severe distaste of the math we do in class. Michael taught me how disabling and real this distaste could be even when one had an understanding of the mathematics at hand.

    My son the engineer could do the math, just not the way I did the math.



    Each day I teach there is the potential to learn something new. Many teachers know this. We grade papers and see new ways to make a mistake. I also learn new ways to do math correctly, particularly because I encourage my students to talk to each other. They speak "math" while I usually speak "mathematics." Many learned math in their home country or from their special ed teacher and it is a different from what we teach in a routine classroom -- correct but different.

    Denise Barrood, and Fran, and Janet, Michelle, Mike Drulis, and Daya, and Kathy and hundreds of others, have each taught me lessons. Denise and Michelle, and Janet taught me that a student can become a friend. Mike Drulis told me way back in the mid-1990s that I needed a web site. I thank him for that lesson.

    What I learn from students is exceeded by what I learn from the teachers in my sessions at meetings or professional day workshops.

High School Teachers & Organizations

    Anne Hendrickson, my senior year math teacher, taught me basic math class management and how to use one's own notes rather than/in addition to the text book.

    Evelyn Dvorak, the FTA advisor, taught me how to lead, when I served as FTA President.

    George Pappas, my art teacher taught me how important it was to have students create. He showed me the power of an image in communication and life.


    Al McQuary & Fred Gould, NJEA Field Reps charged with advising Student NJEA, taught me the to be proud of the profession I'd chosen.

    Ruby Bishar, high school teacher, NJEA member and NJEA Teacher & Professional Standards Committee member, taught me how to work in an organization to make the profession even better.

    Ridgewood HS teachers Paul Zitelli, Willie Bell, and Bob Vojack were my college Student Teaching Cooperating Teachers. They taught me the difference between teaching a lesson -- tailored as best as possible to each student -- and creating and delivering a lecture -- addressing a group with the background and ability to understand all that is presented. For this I am eternally grateful.

Undergraduate & Graduate School & Elsewhere
msccolumbia clemsonmcc
msobel cbredlau

    Max Sobel taught me not just mathematics, but, that a math teacher must also be a showman in the classroom and a leader of teachers outside the classroom. It is his "I'm A Teacher" that years after I graduated and became a teacher I heard Max sing at a meeting and even more years later I edited and used when I became an AMTNJ Max Sobel Awardee.

    Carl Breadlau taught me that a class with camaraderie is much better than one without. Camaraderie makes students want to be with the group again, to attend each class. How does a teacher build class camraderie? By focusing on non-math content when the students need a break because the topic at hand is intense. Talk about an the Honor Society Induction, last night's basket ball game, the possibility of a snow day -- just give a little time to let the big idea sink in and also acknowledge that there is more to life than just math. Carl meant only to teach math, but by example he taught about teaching.


    Bill Koellner taught me the importance of teaching why something is so. Knowing why something is so helps you remember it or derive what you do not remember.

    "People, time, or money" are the ways a job, anything, can get done. Scott MacConnell, the Boss, taught me that as I worked for him backstage building sets, and teaching the theatre majors how to build.


    Here Gloria Sanok and Evan Maletsky are grouped together. Gloria did not teach at Montclair, but she and Evan taught me about the beautiful simplicity and power of teaching with manipulatives.

    Gloria taught me about curve shifting function which I retold in Exploring Functions Through the Use of Manipulatives. Evan taught me to see the world manipulatively and how I could use manipulatives to powerfully teach both students and other teachers.


    John Kenelly taught at Clemson and he also trained teachers in calculater and computer algebra system use. He taught me how powerful stories could be to illustrate a use of mathematics and help one remember its use.

    Charlie Oxman taught chemistry and when Michael, my son, was in college, Charlie tutored Michael in chemistry. Charlie taught me how patient and calm one needed to be to teach a reluctant but unsucessful student.


    Through these organizations I became an auther of an NCTM joke book sold world-wide and a presenter of MAA Summer Institutes on "Manipulative Use" and on "Writing to Learn." These things taught me to be an author and a presenter

mathnhumor joke

Publications and Learning Through Writing
msh termtiles
digital manipulatives 100sboard
mathgames expfx how2

    Click on the logo to learn of a publication.

    Once upon a time M. Eileen Hansen asked me to work with her teaching ESL students math. That is when I began writing the dictionary entitled Math Spoken Here! Next came Math Games for Adult and Child when I watched my father, Mike Azzolino, teach/play a game with my son. I called it "How Many Would You Like" and it began the Math Games book. The small publication The Hundreds Board came from some of the writing I did in the Math Games book.

    Exploring Functions came from Gloria's work. Term Tiles because someone asked for this work but didn't want it when I finished it.

    Digital Manipulative is a collection of spreadsheets which permits one to use manipulatives "digitally." People/teachers had stopped using manipulatives because, though they are a powerful tool, they require an effort to use and because no one used them, no one was learning to use them.

    The point of all of the above is to demonstrate that one can learn by writing. I taught myself each of the topics of the books.

Organizations and Fantastic People
amtnjmatycnj amatyc

    In the schools in which I taught and through The Association of Mathematics Teachers of New Jersey ( AMTNJ), The Association of Mathematics Teachers of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), The Mathematics Association of Two-Year Colleges of New Jersey (MATYCNJ), and the through fantastic people who are their members, I learned about the latest issues and techniques in mathematics education. Even more important than that, I learned to stay "charged" and enthusiastic about teaching by attending meetings and talking to those who also remained charged (and challenged) while teaching.

    While preparing to present a paper I learned as I prepared the paper, while presenting the paper I learned from those in the audience, and after presenting the paper learned from the comments of those to whom I spoke. I learned to lean on others for advise, for guidance, and to vent. I learned from Mary Froustet, Karyn Rupp, Ruth O'Dell, Mick Nuspl, Faith Dillon, Charlie Miller, Jean Lane, Nancy Weinmann, of course Gloria Sanok, Evan Maletsky, and Max Sobel and from those mentioned below.

eklett jvas mary jlamela4

    Each of these women is a superlative teacher.

    Elaine Klett and Joan Vas both teach/taught math, both are former math department chairs, both are Association Past-Presidents, both are presenters at national and statewide meetings, and both are mentors to me. Joan is a Presidential Awardee. Elaine is an AMATYC Teaching Excellent Award Recipient. Elaine taught me to think more highly of myself. She speaks/writes/uses and understand HTML. Joan understands politics and how to move others in an organization and taught me to survive in a professional organization.

    We would go to each other's talks and discuss the talk later. More important than this, Elaine would visit me at my computer and sit and watch me present to her the newest web page and paper I was about to present. Joan would review material over dinner.

    Josephine Lamela and Mary Sirangelo both teach/taught science. At different times, I taught in the same school as each wonderful woman. They taught me how important it is to have someone to discuss every challenging event as it happens and then happens again. They taught me that the frustration I often feel when my students are not doing as well as I wish may be beyond my control.

    In fact each one of these women has taught me that lesson and they and my mother Dorothy Azzolino, and my son Mike Vinik has supported me though each challenge.

    Thank you each person mentioned on this page!  I am a better teacher because of each lesson you've taught.

To quote Max -- (Max Sobel -- 16 April 1983, NCTM, Detroit Meeting)
         To the tune of "Clementine"

I am a teacher
I am a teacher
And as proud as I can be.
To be a teacher of mathematics,
Is the only life for me.

We love our students.
We love our students 
Every day
But we surely would love them better
If we got some extra pay.

and I go on...

I am honored
I am honored
But I want you to see
Please stand other Max Sobel winners
Who've been honored just like me!

My greatest teacher, 
My greatest teacher.
I want you to know,
Is my 92 and counting mother,
The spectacular Dorothy Azzolino.

While I'm at it
While I'm at  it
The student from whom I've learned the most, and I'll be quick,
Though we never did math or physics in the same way
Is my ilutm son Michael Vinik. 

As to others
As to others
And there are many, many more
Who have taught and helped and guided me
I'll not rhyme them so as not to be bore.

There's Joan and Evelyn and Max and Evan,
Gloria, Elaine, John, Karyn, Ruth, Mary, Carl, and Bill,
And as I said before,
Willy, Paul, and Bob, Nancy, and Mick,
There are many, many more.

I am a teacher
I am a teacher
And as proud as I can be.
Because tonight you've made me
The 2017 Max Sobel Awardee.

Thank You!

Back Story

    I felt compelled to write this page.

    In September of 2017, I learned I was to receive the AMTNJ 2017 Max Sobel Award for Outstanding Service and Leadership in Mathematics Education. This was a big deal! AMTNJ even paid for my dinner and for the dinner of each of my family who attended.

    In October 2017, at the Banquet and Awards Ceremony, I sang/read the song at the bottom of this page. I felt I needed to thank all those who had helped me to be worthy of the award. I thought I did a good job.

    Unitl May 2018, that is. In early may, I was asked by a state organization to do a one-day presentation at a state meeting with the theme "Thinking Outside the Box. The title I chose was: "What Happens When Out-of-the-Box Thinking Becomes Routine?". Though I had for years thought about how I becames the teacher I was, I had never even attempted to tell anyone of these people, in any profound way, how they had influenced me.

    Thus this page was born. I'm still not sure how I will use it, but, I feel much better knowing it is written.


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