As a Black male math teacher, Horace Buddoo was a self-described “unicorn.” He taught high-level math for a predominately Latinx student population, but he really saw himself as a “life teacher,” mentor and role model to students who didn’t like math.
“Many of my students, including my Black students, didn't think math was for them. My students were bright, but they didn’t connect with math. Then, here comes me as a Black teacher passionate for math, who they also thought was cool. This presented an opportunity for me to show them that math can be something they can also enjoy. It was a chance for them to apply life skills about problem solving, critical thinking strategies and pushing through hard things with tenacity,” he said.
A Teacher at Heart
From the beginning of his teaching career in 2003, Buddoo taught math classes such as Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Statistics, PreCalculus, and Calculus. But he joked that his love for teaching began at age eight, when he used to line up line up his action figures, his brother's toy green army men and his sister's stuffed animals to take attendance, teach them lessons, give out grades, and even turn them in for detention. Thanks to his grade school teacher, Mrs. Epstein, he felt “valued and affirmed as a learner. She encouraged me to explore and be myself at a very young age,” he said.
Buddoo made it his mission to pass on his love of learning to his students. He tried to show his students that developing a math mindset “can be transferable to other areas of the students’ lives, while at the same time grounding it in the curriculum,” he said. He introduced non-traditional techniques like mindful meditation to help his students focus and reduce stress. “Ten minutes in the beginning of class helped set the tone,” he said.
“Math can be fun. I used math games and real-world examples of how math can be applied to real life. I also recognized that I was there to teach them life lessons and to see the bigger picture of how math concepts can give you the foundational skills for other things,” he said.
Leader and Innovator
One of the major accomplishments of his career was when he organized a TEDX event (part of which he paid for) for his district. He hosted educators, teachers and leaders to explore how to involve the community in the school system, ways to implement successful mentoring programs, along with broader discussions about education.
Despite the success of this event and his many other achievements, Buddoo felt unsupported at his school. “I would spearhead a lot of initiatives like that, and the school would support my efforts in making them a success, however, I would say a general culture of support was lacking,” he said. “I was not feeling valued as a teacher. There was a lot of pressure to get my students to understand mathematical concepts proficiently enough to perform well on our yearly standardized tests, since our school grades were directly linked to the Algebra and Geometry classes that I taught,” he said. “Plus, I was spending most of my day teaching and having to still find time for administrative tasks, meetings, committees, preparing lessons, grading assessments, speaking with counselors, tutoring students, speaking to parents, and supporting extracurricular student activities."
Along with a nationwide shortage of teachers, he also recognized the educational inequities among students. “Those students who could afford private tutoring benefited from that, but what about the students who could not afford it? I definitely wished that my students could have benefitted from a high-impact tutoring program such as what Saga offers. Having tutoring as part of the school day with tutors who would be collaborating with me about the needs of my students would have definitely helped relieve pressure for all of us teachers and would have greatly benefited our struggling students,” he said.
Making a Greater Impact
As time went on, Buddoo began to examine ways that he could bring his skills and talents to a broader stage. “I saw that the system was broken. I wanted to transform math education and make a greater impact. I felt that I would not be able to do that as a classroom teacher, he said. “When I saw Saga, it aligned with my values. Educational equity is the thing I am most passionate about. Saga gives me the opportunity to make an impact on a national level. I love being able to support teachers, leaders, school leaders, and districts,” he said. I believe that Saga Education will accelerate educational equity through the proven power of high-impact tutoring,” he said.
In his role as Director for District Partnerships at Saga Education, Buddoo develops partnerships with K-12 districts around the United States that are interested in implementing high-impact math tutoring. “My team provides services on program design, staffing best practices, pre-service training with district leaders and tutors, along with quality assurance, technical assistance, and high-quality instructional materials for an effective high-impact tutoring program,” he said.