Mrs. Nothem


Sophia Stephenson

Mrs. Nothem teaching her geometry class.

Mrs. Nothem, our high school geometry and algebra teacher never fails at making us smile… even if we are doing math. Want to know more about her? Take a closer look at some of her interests and stories in the questions below.

What is the favorite part of your job?
So definitely one of my favorite parts is students who don’t always get something right away, but then watching them get there. So that light bulb moment for students, or students who have typically struggled with math in the past, then all of a sudden they are getting it and finding success. I find so much joy in that in particular.

So now, the opposite, what is the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes behavior. So definitely, I struggle a little bit with times where I’m like, you should be more mature than that. Right? You should know that’s not an acceptable behavior. What are you doing? Yeah, so that is definitely maybe more of a pet peeve than anything else but yeah behavior.

Is it challenging when some students move ahead or to watch a student feel like they already know a subject? Does that happen?
Oh, it definitely happens. I certainly sometimes question am I providing them the challenges that they need? There are definitely times especially like in algebra one, there are so many topics that are repeated from pre-algebra. So they’re coming in with a lot of background knowledge, where some people are like, I totally already know how to do this. I’m just gonna do it. And then others are like, what? I’ve never seen that before… what are you talking about? So just finding that balance is definitely a challenge.

How do you balance your work life with other responsibilities?
It’s hard, sometimes, especially the older Clay (her son) gets. It seems to get more and more challenging. And I don’t know how all of these amazing parents that have more than one child, how could they possibly do it. Because I feel like we’re running constantly with one. I can’t even imagine having four, for example, Robinsons, you’re amazing. Certainly, it’s hard. This year, I’m trying really, really hard to not work on the weekends. I’m doing pretty good. That’s not so much the case for evenings. Definitely finding that I still have to do a lot of work outside of school. But trying to, especially the older I get to find more and more of that balance because it’s just a necessity.

What college did you attend? Were you well-balanced there as well or did you have to learn that the hard way?
Great question. So UW Platteville was where I went to school, both my husband and I went there. I would say actually, I did a really good job with balance. I had a job, at least one job, all the time. Often, two. A serving job was kind of my favorite; so working in different restaurants even as far as Galena. I was also a tutor at the Math and Science Learning Center. Anybody going to UW Platteville should definitely utilize that resource. Plus, I always had a really challenging courseload and was tutoring outside of just the Math and Science Learning Center. So I was always very busy, but it just always seemed to work out okay for me.

Do you have any tips for students like how to stay on top of your stuff? Or any tips for I guess, students in general, especially college students, where their workload will get a lot busier I’m assuming?
Yeah, absolutely. So study groups are really helpful, really important. And for me, a lot of times it was maybe tutoring and helping others but then I realized I was learning it a lot better myself by doing so and felt much more prepared for assessments when they came. So study groups were really helpful, learning centers, and not being afraid to go to your professors during their office hours, they have them for a reason. Use them! Go get help and then you can reach out to them.

What is one thing that you’re most proud of in life?
This last year when I received the Herb Kohl award, that was definitely a big milestone for me. I love teaching and have always felt like it’s going fairly well for me. But it was a really huge honor to receive that recognition. Definitely one of the proudest moments of my life.

SOPHIA: Yes, that is something to be proud of. And I know from talking to a lot of peers, you’re definitely a great teacher.

What is one thing you regret in life?
Oh, boy. Losing my wedding ring. That was awful. It was awful, awful. Awful. I wish that would have never happened. That was a little random and obviously just a small thing. Other than that, Chris and I have definitely always felt like things happen for a reason. The path that we took was for a reason. There really has not been major regrets other than that one.

If you had a total make-believe or glamorized life, what would it be?
Oh, fairly simple, actually. So St. Kitts is absolutely gorgeous. It is very mountainous and green and lush. I would probably live in the mountains with huge gardens and be on the beach at the same time because they’re everywhere there… I would probably live it up in St. Kitts.

Well, this might be the same thing then. But if you had to go on a vacation anywhere, where would you go?
Since I’ve been there, it probably wouldn’t be there (St. Kitts) again. The Mediterranean is definitely next on our list. So Greece, Italy. That is where we’re hoping to go in the fairly near future.

What is something you’re fearful of or find scary in life?
Mice. I hate mice. I hate them. I hate them.

SOPHIA: You and my mom are alike, my mom will not deal with them… oh it’s bad.

What is your favorite thing about fall?
The beautiful colors. I am just in awe every time I’m driving or walking anywhere I could spend like my entire day taking pictures because I just think it’s so pretty all the time.

SOPHIA: It is, and the place, we live definitely helps with that too.

MRS. NOTHEM: Yes, it does. So, beautiful.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity