Math is notoriously intimidating. Regardless of education or experience, for many people the idea of learning math can be overwhelming, complicated and seem unattainable.
For those lucky enough to work with him, Jeb Gaudet’s classroom is where that changes. Jeb approaches math instruction with one main philosophy – anyone can learn, the differentiating factor is how easy or difficult the learning process is. Jeb believes the trick is to figure out how to approach instruction to help students develop a sense of learning.
While many of his learners are working towards their GED, Jeb doesn’t define a learner’s success by passing the final exam. He understands the courage it takes for adults to return to the classroom after negative experiences and having a single event (that final exam) determine success can add unnecessary pressure.
Instead, Jeb focuses more on the learning process and the achievements that are made along the way. He takes the time to identify, name and celebrate each improvement, no matter how small it may seem, and by doing so is able to build confidence in his learners. This approach builds mutual respect and understanding between him and the learner, and creates an environment where learners feel comfortable to ask questions, laugh at and learn from mistakes, and celebrate victories.
Despite their best efforts, some learners will always struggle with math. Those learners may not succeed in passing the math portion of the GED, but after working with Jeb, their relationship with learning changes and they have a new-found confidence and a lot more self-acceptance. Jeb helps learners understand that no matter their math abilities, they always have something to contribute.
In order to prevent students from taking and failing the exam, and reinforcing their negative relationship with learning, Jeb created a pre-GED math program at CanLearn. He had a vision of a program that would introduce fundamental math skills in a way that wasn’t overwhelming or intimidating to the learner. He introduced non-threatening placement assessments prior to the program start so no learner is ever put in a position where they are not set up to succeed. Jeb’s programs are completely designed based on learner feedback and he will change and adapt as needed throughout the semester. For Jeb, it is more important to work with a learner on a math question from their own life rather than to stick to a set curriculum. Through his gentle and patient instruction, the necessary skills are gained and having learners bring in their own questions allows them to learn with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Jeb’s respectful and adaptive approach to math instruction isn’t just appreciated by his learners. He was instrumental in the collaboration between CanLearn and Catholic Family Services’ Never Too Late programs. He saw the potential support the two organizations could offer learners thanks to their continuum of services. Jeb has a commitment to professional development, he has continued to develop his skills as an instructor and was a key part of moving Never Too Late in-person services online in the spring of 2020.
Jeb has brought his background in research into his role as an instructor through developing a literature review of how trauma affects adult learning. He has also incorporated current brain science research into his work and has produced a number of resource documents for his colleagues to help them better understand how to work with traumatized learners.
Jeb’s work is inspired by his learners, and in turn he inspires the work of his colleagues.