Student essay: Mathletes’ hard work pays off under teacher’s leadership [slideshow]

The following was submitted by Archbishop High School student Andrew Byun about the school’s beloved Sr. Alice Hess and her container design challenge. Included are photos by NEast Philly photographer Bill Achuff.

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” The quote of Ralph Marston  cannot describe Archbishop Ryan’s Varsity Mathletes more perfectly than it does.

Led by Sister Alice, the Mathletes enter every season with the attitude to win, achieving excellence through their constant hard work and dedication. This year, the team won yet another championship, adding to their dynasty in the past two decades. The team outmatched strong powerhouses and consistent rivals such as LaSalle and Holy Ghost to add another trophy to their already colorful collection. This year, captains Joe Detrich and Rebecca Jones carried the team throughout the season, inspiring others to also achieve the best.

The constant success the Mathletes have achieved, not only this season but all the years in the past, is not pure luck. Being a part of Mathletes or any other classes or clubs under the leadership of Sister Alice requires dedication, excellent time management and loyalty to your classmates. Such classes and clubs include the Future Engineers Club, AP Statistics, and AP Calculus. Under these classes, you not only thoroughly learn the subjects themselves but also many life values you can carry with you even after high school.

The statistics don’t lie. More than 15 championships won over the past 20 years. Whereas globally, only 12 percent of the students who take the AP exams earn perfect scores of five, more than 90 percent of Ryan’s calculus and statistics students earn perfect scores year after year.

Numerous national awards. Awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and being named among the nation’s top contender by USA Today, Sister Alice has built up quite a resume over the past years and has done so by dedication, hard work, and efficient time management, the same qualities that she instills in her students. By showing her care for her students through her loyalty to her teachings, the students have also responded with much appreciation and gratitude.

Senior Justin San Juan, the president of the Future Engineers Club, had praising words for his teacher.

“Sister Alice had the biggest influence on me as a future engineer  by her thorough guidance and model example,” he said. “She has always put her faith and confidence into me as a student and even trusted me with running FEC during my Senior year. Without her, I would not be the student I am today.”

Sr. Alice’s efforts continue to get recognition. She is nominated for the Discovery Education Award. One of the eight national runner ups of 180 applicants, Sister Alice was nominated by Doreen Nixon, who is part of Lockheed Martin, one of the most important engineering programs in the country.

Although awards may be important, Sister Alice just sees them as a luxury. Around this time of year, she focuses on something much more important: preparing her students for the upcoming Calculus/Statistics Container Design Project.

This project requires students to design a container and present it in front of numerous professional engineers and former AP students. It aims to teach the students about the importance of time management, team work, diplomacy, problem solving, confidence and real life applications of calculus and statistics. It has been acclaimed throughout the nation and received grants from Toyota, TIME and the US Air Force Association. It has also remained respected and popular from the community, receiving financial support from Crown Holdings and Sartomer USA, as well as many personal donations.

Every year, students walk out of Sister Alice’s classroom with a sense of greater knowledge and wisdom. The classes may not always be easy, but Sister Alice teaches you that neither is life. With her help and a little cooperation, you are headed for something undeniable: excellence.

-Andrew Byun, Archbishop High School student

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