Home Education and Careers Kelly Townsend tries to take away students’ anxiety about the subject in...

Kelly Townsend tries to take away students’ anxiety about the subject in her classes at Padua Academy

Kelly Townsend is in her 11th year as a math teacher at Padua Academy in Wilmington. Junior Marianna Schmitt said Townsend lives out the school’s motto, “softly but strongly” in her classroom. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Kelly Townsend sure made an impression on one of her Padua Academy students in just about no time.

Townsend is in her 11th year at the school, but a student who arrived just this fall nominated her for The Dialog’s Teacher Feature. Marianna Schmitt, a junior, is new to Padua, and Townsend made a quick impression.

“She is an amazing teacher who very clearly explains the concepts of calculus and is always willing to help her students outside of class time,” Schmitt wrote in her nomination. “My experience with this teacher has been transformational since she has made me like math. I always believed I was not good at math, but she makes the subject easy to like.”

Townsend said she was surprised and honored.

“Marianna is a really fantastic person and student,” she said. “She’s starting at a brand-new school. She came into an AP class as a junior. I could tell she’s a really hard worker.”
Townsend teaches math, and this year she has algebra and several calculus classes. At the University of Delaware, she majored in secondary math education, so the path to the classroom seemed clear.

“I kind of figured out I wanted to be a teacher before I decided math is what I wanted to do,” Townsend said. “I guess I always envisioned myself as more of an elementary school teacher. In high school, that’s kind of when I figured out that’s what I want to do.”

Townsend was Kelly Quinn when she attended St. Helena’s School in Bellefonte before going to high school at Ursuline.

“I always enjoyed going to school. I feel like I had many good teachers. In high school, my teacher Ms. (Linda) Henderson, who I had my senior year for math, is when I really decided, ‘Yes, I like this,’” she said.

Townsend said she doesn’t have a specific teaching style. She uses different methods depending on what the class needs and how it is proceeding. The most important aspect to her is the environment. She knows a lot of students get nervous when it comes to math.

“I just try to make it comfortable. I just hope that students know it’s OK to need help. It’s OK to ask questions. It’s OK to make mistakes. I tell them all the time, ‘We’re just hanging out doing math,’” she said.

She arrived at Padua after spending six years at Pencader Charter High School, starting there the year it opened and leaving a year before it closed. She said she liked the community feel at Padua, and it seemed like a good fit. Schmitt said Townsend fits right in with the Padua mentality.

“She lives out the school motto of “softly but strongly” since she is a strict teacher, but is also patient and gracious with her students,” she wrote.

Having gone to high school, she spent four years in the rival all-girls school in Wilmington, so she knew what the environment would feel like. She said her students ask her about her experience at Ursuline and how she ended up at Padua.

“I just feel that both schools were the right fit at different times of my life,” she said.

Townsend, 38, played three sports for the Raiders as a freshman, but she concentrated on softball after that while continuing to play basketball for St. Helena’s Catholic Youth Ministry senior league team. She remains a sports fan, particularly of the Phillies.

She and her husband, Brett, live in Newark with their 6-year-old daughter, Emilia, and two dogs. They like to be outside, spending time with their families and friends and also camping.

Brett Townsend is also a math teacher, at Delaware Military Academy, so they know what the other is going through.

“We kind of fully understand how each other’s work days have gone,” Kelly Townsend said. “It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas and questions off of, but not constant math conversation.”