Robert Cottone: Yearbook

Robert Cottone: Math Teacher
Education: MA in Mathematics Education, Western Governors University 
BA in Applied Mathematics, UC Berkeley

How does Yearbook fit into the College Prep Curriculum?
Yearbook is similar to Student Council, or the school news blog, The Radar, in that it’s a group of students working together on something for the School and no credit is earned. The yearbook students meet during Common Classroom and sometimes during lunch, and attendance is taken, so they’re really committed to being part of the team. Fortunately, because the yearbook software is online, if one week there’s a Common Classroom being offered that a student would like to attend, they’re able to hit their deadline outside of our official meeting time.
How has the Yearbook format changed over the years, and do you see it going digital in the future?
Math teacher Bosky Frederick was yearbook advisor for a long time, and during his tenure the yearbook was put together with paper mechanicals. A few years before I became adviser, the yearbook was moved to an online software platform which reminds me a bit of Facebook—tagging photos and placing them on the page. The publisher does offer a digital version, sort of like an e-book. We are sticking with a hardcopy for now, but with devices that have a pen stylus for signing, this could evolve. I really enjoyed getting my yearbook when I was in high school, and I think the same is true for our students.
What is the process of putting together the yearbook? 
The yearbook has different sections. The major ones are: people, arts and academics, athletics, and student life, plus the seniors create their own pages, which has been a tradition for decades. In years prior, we’d break up the yearbook staff into teams focusing on each section. Section editors would work with their small staff towards each unique deadline. This year, the chief editors and I decided to divide up the staff based on tasks so everyone is working together throughout the year on one common deadline. Task teams include: the photography team who are responsible for taking photos, then uploading and tagging them; the page layout team places images on the pages and writes their captions; and the design team designs the graphics and headlines.  
How many students are on the Yearbook staff?
There are around twenty, plus two editors. The editors are selected through an application process. Traditionally they’re seniors, but this year we have a junior and a senior which might be good training—if this year’s junior wants to be an editor in her senior year, then she could train an incoming junior. The editors work over the summer to decide on the yearbook theme, and they are ultimately in charge of the deadlines as well as organizing all the pages. The editors are at the front of the room directing the staff and setting the guidelines and rules, not unlike the role of a teacher. The rest of the staff is made up of students from different grade levels and interests. Some want to be part of a big project, for others it’s a way to get to know people and be a part of the events happening on campus.
Has being Yearbook adviser influenced the way you teach math?
Perhaps the other way around. The way I teach math has strengthened my abilities in yearbook because it’s a student-centered curriculum. My background before College Prep was more teacher-led, giving lectures. I now structure yearbook as a student-centered classroom. I feel comfortable in my role, and know whether or not to step in. I think of myself as the quiet expert in the math classroom, and an even quieter one in Yearbook. It’s the students’ project. I gently guide them. 
What was your path to becoming a Math Teacher?
I’ve wanted to be a math teacher since I was in high school. I even asked my teachers for any advice they could give, and most were not exactly encouraging. I remained stubborn, studied math, and became a teacher. I started as a substitute and held a long-term position teaching Algebra II and Honors Algebra II at a charter school in San Francisco for a teacher who was on maternity leave. When that ended I moved to South Korea with my partner, taught English for a year, then left for Taiwan where I taught high school math for two years. My next post was in Paris teaching math at an international school, before finally landing at College Prep, where I’m in my fifth year. My passion for teaching is inspired by my high school teachers. They made the classroom enjoyable; I felt like they were doing something different, and I wanted to be part of that process. Math is sometimes thought to be a serious and solemn subject, but my favorite teachers mixed laughter with learning and made it fun. I always look for unexpected moments that will captivate the students, or make them laugh. It resets the classroom and it is engaging for all of us.

The College Preparatory School

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right