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Leaders to Learn From: David Peabody, Mathematics Teacher and Department Head

Mathematics Department Head David Peabody currently teaches Statistics to Upper School students and Middle School math as part of the 4-person team of teachers. 

By Nancy Schatz Alton, Writer/Editor

This school year marks Dave Peabody’s 5th year at UPrep. Currently, he teaches Statistics to Upper School students and teaches Middle School math as part of the 4-person team of teachers. Last year he team taught the Intro to Statistics intensive with Tammi Howe. In this intensive, teams of students wrote an article on immigration and King County using the same data sources as Gene Balk, the Seattle Times FYI Guy. He’ll team teach this course with Sarah Peterson and Jerry Gallaher this January.

What do you enjoy most about teaching Statistics to Upper School students?

I think statistics is totally applicable to real life, and that it’s a breath of fresh air for many kids. I tell my students they can use statistics to be citizen scientists. We can figure out the wait time for the walk signal on 80th street. By averaging the wait time for the walk signal at random times, we can plot the data, find trends, and come to some conclusions. Then we can use those statistics to ask for a longer walk time. I also love teaching students how to apply what they’ve learned in class to read the paper with a more trained eye.

What do you enjoy most about teaching as part of the Middle School math program?

I like Middle School math because it’s very hands-on and we work to give kids a foundational mathematics base. The students just created Choose Your Own Adventure probability books. I also appreciate the way math is being taught today: it’s beneficial to give students multiple representations to see a concept. Everybody can do math. It’s like running a race or being in a debate. Many people have strengths in different areas and teaching multiple representations makes room for those differences and helps students hone skills in all areas.

Rumor has it you were recruited to play professional football during college.

I was scouted by the Chicago Bears while playing cornerback (defense) at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. While I didn’t end up playing professionally, I did end up creating my very own personal planner to capture that time period of my life. I’ve been using The Peabody Planner ever since. I’m a chronicler, I like to record things, and I need to doodle. The planner fulfills my non-linear processing needs in a linear system. Here’s my Ted Talk that tells that story.

What else keeps you centered?

For five or six years, I’ve been taking one second of video every day to document my life and what I see. I started doing this after seeing Cesar Kuriyama’s 1 Second Everyday Ted Talk. Taking one snippet is not too invasive to another person and you don’t lose being in the moment. I download the videos to the 1 Second Everyday app, and every month I have a roughly 30-second video. In a year, that’s 6 minutes. If I have phone problems or I missed a day, it gets to me. (Here’s Dave’s video of October 2018.)

Why are you passionate about traveling to and living in other countries?

It’s so easy to think that Western conventional wisdom is best, but traveling and living in other cultures has helped me examine my biases and what I hold as truths. A basic example of this came from watching people in Africa carry heavy things on their heads. I put my suitcase on my head at the airport, and yes, it felt easier than carrying it the way I usually do. This summer my wife showed our five-year-old daughter and me Kampala, Uganda, and other parts of East Africa. She lived there for work; she works in global health. We saw the source of the Nile and went on safari, to name a few highlights. Being around millions of people who are part of another culture? Everybody should have that experience of feeling what it’s like to be a minority. I believe it’s one of the best empathy builders and understanding expanders that can happen, and I’m grateful for the experience. Living where I didn’t speak the language as a math teacher in the Dominican Republic from 2004 to 2007: That was a watershed foundational experience for me.

How do you relax and unwind when you are away from school?

I like to play ultimate Frisbee. I’m coaching my daughter’s kindergarten basketball team. My wife and I have date night every Thursday; we do core power yoga and then go out for beer and pizza. We walk our dog, a sheep doodle, all over Ballard. I also listen to a lot of podcasts. Some of my go-tos are Radiolab, Hidden Brain, The Moth, Freakonomics, and Españolistos.


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