Research Focus:Mathematics Education, Transdisciplinary STE(A)M Education, STEM Teacher Professional Development
Throughout her life, Sarah Bush has been conscious of our society’s apprehension towards math. She routinely heard sentiments such as “I’m not a math person” or “I was never good at math when I was in school.” However, even as a young child, Bush loved mathematics and thinking creatively about numbers. She also recognized that understanding mathematics and having the ability to apply it to the world around her would be an essential tool for making smart decisions in life.
Though Bush is a first-generation college student, her parents and teachers encouraged and fostered her love for mathematical thinking — a gift she wishes to impart on others as well. Hoping to alleviate the anxiety around math and change the misguided perceptions that math is something difficult and distanced from reality, she set out to become a mathematics educator.
“I realized that every young person needs and deserves to grow up with a positive relationship with mathematics,” she says. “I wanted to help students feel that they belonged in mathematical and STEM spaces, that includes understanding, appreciating, and enjoying mathematical thinking.”
Bush began her career as a middle school math teacher in Indiana and quickly came to realize just how much of an impact she could have on her students. She wondered if there were ways she could contribute to the field of mathematics education on a larger scale, and soon found herself pursuing a PhD from the University of Louisville, taking coursework full-time while teaching. After working at Bellarmine University in Kentucky after finishing her PhD, Bush dreamed of moving somewhere with year-round sunshine. In 2017, she accepted a faculty position at UCF and Central Florida became her new home.
At UCF, Bush coordinates the Mathematics Education track of the PhD in Education, teaches in three graduate programs, and mentors Graduate Research and Teaching Assistants and Associates. She is also the Principal Investigator of two National Science Foundation grant projects, both of which are teaching-focused. She has published more than 30 peer-reviewed papers with graduate students since arriving at UCF and frequently presents at conferences with graduate students. Last year, she received a Research Incentive Award, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, and was the university recipient of the 2022 UCF Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award for her mentorship.
Bush describes how mentoring doctoral students is a lifelong commitment. “You are not just their program mentor, but their career mentor, sponsor, and advocate,” she says. She supports them in all aspects of their academic and professional journeys. “At the end of the day, I wish for each of my students to know that they can and will do great things, and I will be there to mentor and guide, advocate for, cheer on, and celebrate their successes throughout their careers,” she says.
The most rewarding aspect of her job is seeing her students’ growth over time and watching their journeys unfold. From learning to conduct research to learning to teach at the collegiate level, helping her students succeed as leaders in mathematics education is the ultimate goal for Bush. “My students are constantly creating the most innovative and thoughtful approaches to teaching, and the opportunity to learn alongside them is inspiring.”
- Coordinates Mathematics Education track of PhD in Education
- Principal Investigator of two National Science Foundation grant projects
- Published over 30 peer-reviewed papers with UCF graduate students
- Recipient of 2022 UCF Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award
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