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Proud to be a Pioneer: Joyce Perkins racing through the numbers

Proud to be a Pioneer is an ongoing feature that highlights the staff and alumni of Nooksack Valley Schools.

Nooksack Valley Middle School students live in a world of rational numbers. That is, they learn to think in terms of percentages, decimals, fractions and all manner of “rational numbers.” And it is Joyce Perkins who has been taking them to that place since 1998.

“I think most kids like it, but that may be me looking through rose-colored glasses,” she jokes about the math she has enjoyed teaching for roughly 20 years. “You have those kids who don’t, but most actually do enjoy it.”

Having taught math at the middle school her entire Nooksack Valley Schools career, Perkins did spend some time teaching seventh grade math, but has put the majority focus on sixth grades. Sure, they handle a bit of beginning algebra and data analysis, but it is the rational numbers that take the focus.

“They like the beginning of the year really well,” she says. That is when she puts a focus on factors, multiples and the ideas of graphing and data analysis. The rational number aspect, a focus on fractions, decimals and percentage does present a real challenge for students, but also proves a vital skill that they can use forever. “Very few of us get away without being able to compute with rational numbers,” Perkins says. “It is just everywhere.”

While Perkins certainly enjoys teaching, it doesn’t keep her busy 100 percent of the time. She says she lives a “typical life” of staying involved with her family, friends and church, but she does get into her garden to grow flowers and spend time walking. Along with that she enjoys sewing and cooking and, while she has never gotten behind the wheel of a race car herself, her entire family is into the racing scene. “We do a lot of that with kids and grandkids,” she says. “I’m never behind the wheel. I’m staying away from that, but I go.”

You can rest assured, whether cooking, growing flowers or helping with the family races, Perkins never strays far from her interest in numbers. Rational numbers, of course.