North Plainfield Math Teacher Teresa Thompson Reflects on Career, Retirement

Teresa Thompson
Teresa Thompson

(Editor’s Note: Victoria Kisling is a senior at North Plainfield High School and an intern for TAPinto North Plainfield.)

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Teresa Thompson began her career in the borough 10 years ago as an eighth grade math teacher at North Plainfield Middle School before moving over to the high school where she currently teaches regular and honors algebra as well as quantitative reasoning to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. After a teaching career that spans 14 years, including the past decade with the North Plainfield School District, Thompson will retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Thompson grew up in what was then rural Alexandria, VA and was one of five children. In eighth grade, her family, which included four siblings - Anne, Pete, Julie, and Fred - relocated to Princeton, NJ. After graduating from Princeton High School, Thompson went on to attend Clark University in Worcester, MA where she studied math.

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“I always knew I wanted to be a math person,” Thompson said. “My mother was a math major and always worked with me on math and always made me like math. We were very tight. SHe inspired me.”

After graduating from Clark University, Thompson headed west to Colorado to live with her older sister and got a job recording data of drill deeps at an oil company.

“All day long I clicked a mouse for eight hours. I hated it. After two weeks I though there is no way I can do this anymore,” said Thompson, noting that she stuck it out for two weeks before quitting and taking on an engineering position at Mountain Bell. There, she ordered equipment for a large phone system. She went to on to become a programmer at Mountain Bell and, through this position, put her math skills to use taking equipment ordered by the company’s engineers and put it to use to create a program for the Mountain Bell’s phone system. “It was all based on logic and things that I was comfortable with,” said Thompson.

After two years in Colorado, Thompson moved back to Massachusetts and, after meeting her husband, returned to New Jersey to raise a family. She has two children, including a son with autism, and, after seeing how teachers made a difference in her youngest child’s life, became inspired to go into education.

“When he started going to school, the teachers worked miracles on him. He’s now 23. He’s driving. He has a job. [His] teachers did amazing things for him,” she said.

Thompson went back to school in 2001, earning a masters degree in math education from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. She then worked for four years in two different districts before securing a position in North Plainfield in 2007. Although she initially accepted the middle school teaching position in the district for its convenient location to her home, Thompson said she soon realized North Plainfield offered so much more.

“It’s so different; the diversity of the students. I love it,” said Thompson. “North Plainfield is really special.”

According to Thompson, North Plainfield High School is filled with good-hearted, friendly students and teachers. She does, however, wish some of her students would work a little harder at times and said her biggest challenge as a teacher is ‘trying to reach so many different types of students.’

“Different types of students do well with different types of teachers,” she said.

Thompson said her goal throughout her teaching career has been to reach all her students by forging relationships. Additionally, she always tries to motivate her students everyday as much as she can to push them to work a little harder.

Thompson said she made the difficult decision to retire at the end of the school year just a few weeks ago. “I was back and forth. I thought I could do just one more year, but then I work so much,” she said.

Following her retirement, Thompson and her husband will remain in New jersey for a couple more years before moving down to Virginia. She also plans on tutoring so that she can continue to help and teach others.

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