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Describing herself as a “cheerleader for the underdog,” Bonnie Austin’s nearly 30-year career as an educator is filled with students who found her classroom magical.
“She has been a private tutor for my own kids and we have dubbed her the ‘Math Whisperer’ at our house,” wrote a Dodge City principal. “As my son once said, you just sit down next to her and math becomes easier to understand.”
For Austin, being called a math whisperer is high praise.
“I consider the title an honor because it is always my goal to build the confidence of my students,” Austin said.
Austin earned a bachelor’s degree in humanities/elementary education with a minor in mathematics from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and a master’s degree in elementary administration from Fort Hays State University.
Since beginning her career teaching sixth- through ninth-grade mathematics in the Dodge City school district, Austin’s students have expanded from middle-school age to college age and fellow educators in the district. During her career, Austin was a building principal at Sunnyside Elementary in Dodge City before becoming a math teacher and instructional coach at Dodge City High School in 2009. Since 2010, she has been an adjunct instructor of intermediate algebra during the summer at Dodge City Community College.
“Even though the age of my students may change,” said Austin, “my philosophy of teaching remains the same. Confidence, belief, curiosity and the hunger to learn are the cornerstones of my philosophy.”
Austin’s magical ability to explain mathematics has allowed her students to achieve their dreams.
One former student told how her plans to graduate from college became harder after marrying and having a son. Achieving her goal seemed impossible when she enrolled in a college math class.
“I took three math classes and failed them all,” she recalled, “but to put salt on an open wound, one of those teachers told me there was no way I would ever pass a college math class, and I should try finding a job that didn’t require a degree.”
Once she walked into Austin’s college classroom, the former student recalled, the world opened up and she now is a physical earth science teacher.
“When I’m in class now, my only hope is that I can touch my students’ lives like Mrs. Austin touched mine.”
Austin’s talents and willingness to serve others extends beyond the classroom. Since 1990, she has been a church organist and now leads the worship team at Wilroads Gardens Christian Church. She was an active parent volunteer with her sons’ Boy Scout packs and troops, serves as “clerk of the course” for the Dodge City Swim Team and also volunteers for Pride of Southwest Kansas, Depot Theater, Numana, South Dodge Business Association, YMCA Founders Campaign Committee, Relay for Life, Dodge City Mothers of Multiples and Ford County 4-H Advisory Board.
“Bonnie isn’t just a teacher,” wrote a college professor. “She is an integral part of the community here and does her best to reinforce the importance of life-long learning and ‘making a difference’ to her students, to her colleagues and to adults in Dodge City."