New math teacher aims to broaden student horizons

New math teacher Jo French Jr. brings 24 years of teaching experience to Country Day along with his furry companion, Fritz. He hopes to grow students’ knowledge in multiple ways, become closer to loved ones and explore new places. 

His passion for math started when he had just finished college and searched for a job. 

“I was always pretty comfortable with math,” he said. “I spent 10 years after college working in various jobs where math was an asset.” 

French had worked as a Manager of Sales Support and Analysis at the Disney Channel where he used math to “analyze the effectiveness of various marketing campaigns and model pricing scenarios.”

Then French decided to start teaching high schoolers and began searching for a job at the high school he attended.

At first, he applied to be a substitute teacher in Southern California. The school French attended as a child,  Flintridge Preparatory School, had a temporary opening, allowing him to experience teaching in a lower-stakes situation. 

Impressed by his performance, the administration offered French his classroom. After observing other teachers in the classroom, he officially began his career as a full-time teacher.

While he enjoyed his job as a math teacher, he missed his family a lot. For three long years, French had been living in Utah where he had found a teaching job. He felt increasingly “isolated” from his family.

To have some company, he adopted his first dog. She was a black labrador named Lady Algebra, a name inspired by his love for math. She made him become a more responsible person, and he always spent time with her.  She passed away a few years ago but French still cherishes her memory. 

After learning that working at Country Day would bring him closer to his siblings, he was confident that it was the right place for him. 

“I’ve always been very close to my family,” he said, “and now I have a chance to see them more often.” 

When French shadowed at Country Day, he was touched by how the community cares for each other and enjoys studying. 

“When I came to visit, it was clear that people were glad they were here, and students all seemed like they were interested in learning,” French said. 

As a teacher, French’s main goal is to engage all his students and allow them to view the world in many different ways. He aims to create an environment where students can ask each other questions and work in groups. This helps students develop new perspectives, boosts their social skills, and allows them to understand math concepts better. 

A student in French’s AP Calculus AB class, senior Ibrahim MoheyEldin enjoys the interactive elements of the class.

“It’s very hands-on group learning,” he said. “When one person doesn’t understand, another group will help that person. We work together as a team.”

French’s communication skills extend far beyond people. A dog lover since birth, French spends most of his time with his dog, Fritz.

Originally, Fritz belonged to French’s parents. After their passing, he gained custody of Fritz and started taking care of him every day. He cherishes Fritz in honor of his parents and keeps their remembrance alive. 

French and Fritz have a tight bond that is very evident in the classroom as French has brought Fritz to class every day after the weather cooled down. Together they explore campus and meet new people. 

Helping students for seven hours every weekday becomes tiring. To unwind after work, French reaches for a board game. 

“I enjoy more puzzle solving games, games that make people communicate,” he said. 

As French and his family separated on different paths when they were younger, his main goal was to seek his education and help others achieve that same goal. 

“I teach a lot of juniors and seniors who are starting to make some very big decisions about their lives,” French said. “And I enjoy helping them move on to the next stage of their life.”

— By Anisha Mondal

Originally published in the Sept. 28 edition of The Octagon.

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