by Sara Cunningham
Rachel Dunnagan has always been as dedicated to the education of others as she is to her own education.
Teaching comes natural to the math and classics senior.
Her love of education began with creating pretend assignments for her younger sister when they played school as children and continued with Dunnagan’s devotion to helping her classmates with their studies in high school.
The Louisville native was scheduled to graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in math and a second Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics this past spring, and plans to progress to a graduate program to continue preparing herself for a long career in teaching math and Latin to high school students. She hopes to find a teaching position that allows her to coach a swimming team too.
While she had lots of schools to choose from, UK was very affordable and the College of Arts & Sciences has allowed her to major in the subjects she wants to teach, Dunnagan said.
“I knew that if I wanted to be a teacher, I had better teach the subjects I like,” she said. “My two majors are pretty diverse and I’ve been able to do both of them in the college. That has been a huge benefit.”
Dunnagan has had a great deal of success as a student. She is a member of the UK Honors program and a Singletary Scholar. She was recently awarded a top Wethington Fellowship as she will continue her Masters degree at UK.
In addition to her success in the classroom, Dunnagan has been very active in other ways on campus.
Tying in her love of teaching and math, she is co-president of the Big Blue Council of Teachers of Math, works as an undergraduate assistant in the math department, tutors other students and helps with math recitation.
Of all of her activities, Dunnagan’s favorite moments come from working with other students.
Tutoring and math recitation have “really helped me hone my teaching skills,” Dunnagan said. “I love those ‘ahaa moments’ where you see the person you’re helping start to understand.
Seeing someone have more confidence in their skills and abilities is fun. It means a lot to watch someone grow more confident and excited.”
Dunnagan said she is happy that her younger sister Rebekah is also an A&S student, although Rebekah loves biology instead of math.
“In A&S there’s a variety of majors and they really require you to get a liberal arts degree,” Dunnagan said. “That helps you because a broader liberal arts education prepares you for a lot of different things that may end up being a part of your career and your life.”
“It’s a good foundation for when you get out of school,” she continued. “You need to have a background in more than just one field.”
Of course, nothing beats her love for math education.
“Math is important because the skills students build to problem solve are crucial to functioning in our world,” Dunnagan said. “The ability to problem solve is what is really key.”