MILLTOWN — Julianna Carousso is in her second year teaching mathematics at Saint Mark’s High School. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, neither one has been exactly what she trained for in college, but she has managed to make an impression on her students despite not having had her students in a classroom on a full-time basis since March.
One of her students, junior Alayna Mariano, was in Carousso’s first-ever class at Saint Mark’s last September, and the two were reunited this year, much to Mariano’s delight. She nominated Carousso to be part of The Dialog’s “Teacher Feature,” highlighting educators in Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Wilmington.
“I was in her first class ever, and when this year’s schedule came out, I was so excited that I have her again this year,” Mariano wrote. “I look forward to Miss Carousso’s class every day, and so do all of my friends. She is not only a great teacher who keeps us on task, but she is always willing to help students after class or school if they need it.”
Carousso, 23, joined the faculty at Saint Mark’s after graduating from the University of Delaware in 2019. Being nominated by a student “feels pretty nice,” she said.
She believes that her youth helps her relate to students, noting that they watch some of the same television shows, for example.
“I can remember being them,” she said.
She likes to spend a few minutes at the beginning of class talking to her students about their lives, “but not to the point where it’s distracting. Just in the first couple minutes of class, I’ll talk to them, joke around with them. It’s just nice to have that personal connection.”
Teaching math sometimes can be difficult, Carousso acknowledged, so she tries to make it as relatable as possible. Her geometry class was working on proofs recently, in which they have to show how they reached their final conclusion. Carousso turned to the 2001 film “Legally Blonde,” in which Reese Witherspoon stars as an ex-sorority girl who goes back to school to earn a law degree. Her character tries to explain her decision to her father.
“I use that movie to kind of connect it to writing proofs,” Carousso explained. “We basically just analyze her thought process and develop a proof based on that situation. They really seem to like that. Even the kids at home, who can get a bit disengaged.”
The pandemic has added a unique aspect to the early years of her career, something that never came up during student teaching.
“I’ve noticed there’s been a lot more issues with people handing in their assignments on time. It wasn’t as much of an issue when they were here every single day because we were more on top of them,” she said. “But then when they have their remote days, it can be difficult sometimes to gauge attentiveness. To some degree, it is kind of on them to get their work done. There’s more of an issue with that. That’s a little challenging, but they’ve started to get the hang of it.”
Carousso has some ideas she’d like to introduce into her classroom, but they are on hold until school is back to normal. They involve getting the students up and moving around in a way that makes math more relatable.
Mariano said Carousso’s appeal extends beyond her teaching. “She is such a positive person and is always smiling. Miss Carousso makes learning interesting and easy to understand. There are so many reasons Miss Carousso is my favorite teacher.”
The Westchester County, N.Y., native attended Horace Greeley High School before coming to Delaware for college. She decided to stick around after graduation and was hired at Saint Mark’s.
“I was interviewing in a few places, but this was the only place where I felt really relaxed,” she said.
When she’s not using movie clips as an instructional aid, Carousso likes to hang out with friends, and she recently has gotten into painting by numbers.
“It’s like what you do when you’re younger, but it’s actually so relaxing. I like to do that sometimes.”