The Journey to Becoming a Math Teacher: A Profile of Mr. Moreng

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The Journey to Becoming a Math Teacher: A Profile of Mr. Moreng

Laura Lee, Staff Writer

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If you take a look into room 108 while walking down the math hallway, chances are you’ll find a classroom full of laughing students. Jonathan Moreng, the much loved and respected teacher of this math class, is probably the cause of this laughter. Also known for his YouTube channel Mathcamp321, Mr. Moreng is a fun and dedicated math teacher who is popular for his legendary jokes, which are often repeated by students for years.

Moreng earned his Bachelor of Science degree for math at Vanderbilt University, and he went on to get his Masters of Teaching in Secondary Mathematics at Fairleigh Dickinson University. However, his journey to becoming a math teacher has been a complex one.

He says that the “seed was first planted” in the 1980’s when he worked as a swimming teacher for young students. He was constantly told by parents that he should consider a career in teaching due to his popularity among the students, but that advice was forgotten until nearly a decade later when Moreng opened up his tutoring company, Academic Advantage, in the 1990s.

He recalls the advantage that this name gave him, jokingly saying, “You know, back in the ‘90s, there was no Internet, so people would have to look it up in the yellow pages if they wanted to find a tutor. The yellow pages are in alphabetical order, so guess who they saw first when they owned up the books?”

To gain credibility as a tutor, Moreng decided that he should get a teaching certificate, which eventually led him to Fairleigh Dickinson University. During this time, he exposed himself to the classroom dynamic and realized he actually enjoyed teaching in a classroom better than tutoring one-on-one.

While he’s been working at Tenafly High School since 1995, it was actually not his first job. He started his official teaching career at the Barnstable Academy, a private high school in Oakland, New Jersey. According to Moreng, this school had one particular feature that he can clearly remember: the Nabisco factory behind it. “I always wanted Oreos,” Moreng said. “While you were teaching, you could always just smell the food they were making in the factory.”

A year later, he finally left behind the Oreos to begin teaching at Tenafly High School. Throughout his 24 years in Tenafly, he recalls some of his favorite memories are from being a class advisor for the class of 2003. “You just form a really special bond with all the kids after four years of being their advisor,” he said. “We won Olympics two years in a row, which is pretty cool, and I even still keep in touch with some of those students.”

During his years of teaching, he has also acquired dozens of jokes that he routinely shares with his classes. A group of students have come to listen in on the stories Moreng shares throughout the interview, and he addresses them when asked what his favorite joke is. The students all agree on the classic saying he repeats before every test: “No Beijing! I mean no Peking!”

Over the years, he has picked up new jokes. “They’re all organic, though,” Moreng says. “I recently came up with one I think is actually very good. ‘2sin. Wait why are you listing cities in Arizona?’”

Perhaps one of his most distinguishing features as a teacher is his use of YouTube videos to teach. His channel MathCamp321, with over 800 subscribers and 250 videos, was made during Hurricane Sandy after he watched a 60 Minutes episode about flipped classrooms where students learn at home and practice at school. After seeing Khan Academy’s videos, Moreng decided to use his week off to start making videos. His goal is to get to 1,000 subscribers so he can adhere to YouTube’s rules for monetization.

He generally has found teaching to be very rewarding. “I think it’s really satisfying to see all the students progress and grow, particularly in math. Kids come in on day one not knowing anything, and they leave at the end of the year with so much more knowledge,” he said.

Moreng is a highly adored teacher at Tenafly High School. His personality shone as I conducted my interview with him during his library duty. While he began to tell me animated stories, his popularity among students seemed clear when they began to gather around, eager to hear what he had to share.

In and outside of the classroom, Mr. Moreng is a passionate teacher, loved by the school. You can probably find him every lunch period walking to Dunkin with Mr. Yanniotis while he tries to get in his daily 12,000 steps.

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