Lower School (LS) Math Teacher Beth Thiemann first became interested in math from the patterns she observed everywhere, whether in flowers and leaves or in sewed crafts.
“My eagerness for math seemed like it was always there,” she said. “I’ve always liked patterns, and I also liked seeing how numbers interact together, so teaching math seemed like the right fit.”
Ms. Thiemann began teaching in her hometown of Chicago before she moved to St. Louis, Connecticut, and Philadelphia to teach various grades. She arrived at the school in 1986 and has taught ever since.
“We came up here because my husband became dean of the divinity school at Harvard. I had been teaching and loved teaching, and BB&N was just a mile away from Harvard,” she said.
Throughout her time at the school, Ms. Thiemann has taught math to first through fourth graders. She said she has especially enjoyed watching the progression of students’ logic skills throughout the grades.
“I like teaching younger students when the teacher can instill the sense of joy of learning into the children’s minds,” she said. “And the kids have such a great ‘Aha’ experience so frequently. They love school and math as I do, too.”
Ms. Thiemann will retire at the end of this academic year and will use her time off to enjoy some of her hobbies, such as swimming and doing arts and crafts projects, and to try new activities like a book group or informal singing group.
“Best of all, perhaps, will be to slow down my pace a bit, linger over a second cup of coffee, pause to enjoy the beauty of the earth, and visit a friend without keeping track of the time,” she said.
Ms. Thiemann said she also hopes to travel to places she has never before visited—like Japan, New Zealand, and Australia—and to spend more time with her family, especially her young grandchildren who live in the Boston area.
She will remain affiliated with t
he school by continuing to teach a three-credit graduate course on elementary math education to Lesley University graduates who intern at the LS, she said.
Director of the Teacher Training Institute Bev Malone, who hired Ms. Thiemann three decades ago, said she was known at the school for reaching out and helping others, whether offering her home to a school family whose house was burned or baking cookies for her colleagues’ birthdays.
“She goes above and beyond simply being your colleague. She becomes a friend,” Ms. Malone said. “She was always dependable, reliable, [and] cheerful.”
LS Science Teacher Carol Fine recalled how Ms. Thiemann looked out for her when she came to teach at the school.
“For me, Ms. Thiemann was a mentor since this was my first real teaching job. We worked in adjacent rooms, and she has always had an upbeat personality and a willingness to help,” she said.
Fourth grade homeroom teacher Bill Hritz, who will take over her position in the fall, said he noticed her eagerness to determine the most effective teaching methods for students.
“She was always excited about math and teaching math to kids, and tried to think of ways to show them where math is in our daily lives,” he said, referring to projects Ms. Thiemann created such as a unit on studying money—in which students made a pretend grocery store and shopped with real coins—or Pumpkin Math, where fourth graders would count seeds in a pumpkin and measure its circumference.
Maddie Ford ’19 said she had fond memories from her third grade math class with Ms. Thiemann.
“Although I had her a long time ago, I still remember enjoying some of the games we played to learn multiplication and division. These simple games helped me memorize my times tables and set a base for harder and more complicated math problems,” she said. Ms. Thiemann’s current students also praised the teacher.
“Whenever you mess up, she stays calm,” Sydney Ruiz ’27 said. “Like if you mess up 10 times, she’s still patient.”
“She is very nice, and I have learned a lot of hard things this year in her class—lots,” Anna Gross-Loh ’28 added. “I love math!”
Ms. Thiemann said she enjoyed teaching all of her students at the school and that she will miss her time here.
“BB&N is a special place,” she said. “We get really extraordinary students. We have excited, interested students and a wonderful batch of parents. If you ask them to read to students, they do—they follow up. The family commitment is really strong, and you see that in the kids. They take their education seriously.”