Mr. Cardon’s positive classroom culture improves learning

Andrew+Cardon%2C+math+teacher%2C+displays+his+disc+golfing+skills.

Photo by Gabriel Souza

Andrew Cardon, math teacher, displays his disc golfing skills.

Gabriel Souza, Editor in Chief

A beloved staple of OHS’s faculty, Andrew Cardon, math department chair, has gone through several changes in his life. From altering career paths to finding new hobbies, Cardon has an impressive history and an inspiring teaching philosophy.

Before his career as a teacher, Cardon had a long journey trying to determine his professional aspirations. As he graduated high school and entered college, Cardon sought to be an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“When I was in high school I remember that I was dead set on being an FBI agent,” Cardon said. “I got advised to go into accounting if I wanted to be an FBI agent because the FBI needed accountants at the time, but those accounting classes were too boring for me.”

After accounting proved not to be a viable path in life, Cardon shifted gears and went into engineering.

“I got a degree from New Mexico State University in mechanical engineering, [but] that was too boring for me too,” Cardon said. “My older sister [had] just graduated from college and became a teacher and I thought that would be pretty cool.”

Cardon approached the teaching profession with caution, first substituting different grade levels before making the final decision to become a teacher.

“I substituted elementary, middle, and high school and I really liked the high school kids,” Cardon said. “I was like ‘that’s it, I’m going to go back to school and be a high school teacher.’ In my classes, as I learned more and more about education, I just fell more and more in love with it. I think I’ve fallen more and more in love with teaching and education every year.”

After becoming a teacher, Cardon fell in love with the beauty of teaching and the feeling of making a difference in the lives of his students.

“I can remember particularly the first time I had this feeling of a kid understanding something that they never understood [before],” Cardon said. “It felt so good, and I was like ‘I’m doing this for a living, I’m getting paid for something I absolutely love,’ and that sold me, I was done. I knew that I was in the right job.”

Unlike accounting or engineering, teaching has a human interaction aspect to it – something Cardon found critical to his life.

“I am a people person, I love people [and] I love talking. That’s why I couldn’t do my first two careers that I thought I might’ve done when I was younger; I just enjoy people, I like to talk to kids,” Cardon said.

Interacting with students and creating an enjoyable classroom atmosphere is part of Cardon’s teaching strategy.

“If [teachers] don’t have fun, or try to make [class] fun in some way, [students] will go crazy, get bored, and [they’re] not going to pay attention,” Cardon said. “[Using] humor, keeping it light, making relationships with students, making it a place where [I] don’t mind [being], that’s what I try to do with my math classes, make it fun for the kids.”

Cardon has various methods to increase student engagement and positivity in the classroom. Not only do these actions make students happy, they also can help students stay focused on learning.

“I have jokes, I have songs, [and] I play guitar,” Cardon said.

When a classroom environment is positive, students are more comfortable to speak up and ask questions, which is an intrinsic part of the learning process.

“I really encourage my students to speak up and ask questions; they learn so much more, it makes me a better teacher, [and] it makes the classroom better,” Cardon said.

When students ask questions, Cardon is able to fully see the student perspective to a certain topic; without questions Cardon believes learning would be hindered and that students would suffer learning losses.

“I teach from the perspective of someone who has been doing a lot of math for 20 years and if I just [teach] from my perspective and don’t listen to what [my students] have to say, and the questions [they] are asking, [they’re] not going to [understand],” Cardon said. “I can’t see everything from [a student’s] point of view, so that’s where I need students of mine to speak up and ask questions and talk with me so that we can figure out these problems that we’re doing. It makes for a better atmosphere.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as schools were closed and classes held online, Cardon discovered a new passion that has truly captivated him.

“I’m big into sports, but I’m currently playing disc golf. I play every day that I can, usually everyday,” Cardon said. “I picked it up when we got shut down for COVID; I had nothing to do, so I went outside and started throwing frisbees around. I really fell in love with [disc golf] and I’m glad I found it.”

As disc golf has become an essential part of his life, Cardon plans to begin playing competitively.

“I’m just starting to [play] competitively, it took me a while to get the hang of things, but I’m starting to get pretty good,” Cardon said. “I’m playing in my first tournament, in Scottsdale, on Dec. 18; [I would love it if people came and] cheered me on.”

While disc golf is growing in popularity, Cardon aspires to start a club relating to the sport at OHS.

“Disc golf is a relatively new sport and it has really, in the last couple years, been blowing up all over the place,” Cardon said. “I would love to get more people interested, especially high school aged kids. I would love to see it start with a club if some kids are interested.”

With the myriad of sports, clubs, and activities students can participate in at OHS, Cardon sees the school as a top-notch educational institution.

“I think that this school is the most tremendous, amazing, fantastic school from academics to sports to band to theater,” Cardon said. “I’m very thankful to be a part of [OHS]; I think we have a great school.”