Michael J. Donaldson
Class of 2024 graduate Michael J. Donaldson M.A., teaching. (Steve Zylius/UC Irvine)

Currently in the last stages of UC Irvine’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, Michael J. Donaldson is looking forward to becoming a high school math teacher. 

In preparation for the edTPA, an assessment that determines if new teachers are ready for the job, he’s a student teacher in a ninth-grade Algebra 1 class. 

Donaldson is also working on his capstone project, in which he’s exploring the benefits of teaching math through problem-solving activities and group work.

Before entering UC Irvine, he had spent 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. While Donaldson enjoyed his time there, the COVID-19 crisis had given him time to think about changing careers. 

His mother had been a teacher, and Donaldson discovered that he too had a passion for it while helping his son with math homework during the pandemic. This led him to apply to UC Irvine’s School of Education.

Beyond teaching, Donaldson hopes to give back to UC Irvine and its veteran community, which has supported him in navigating the transition from the military to education.

“UCI has a great veterans organization that helped me figure out how to use my veterans benefits to aid my education,” he says. “I’m really thankful for what they’ve done, and it’s something that I want to give back to later on.”

What was your favorite class at UC Irvine? 

My math methods class. It focuses on teaching the mathematics candidates how to teach in the classroom. The amazing thing about it was that I saw different teamwork activities and problem-solving activities that I didn’t get when I was in school. Often, my math instructors were not my favorite teachers because they used more traditional methods. Some of them were a little dry. In this class, I learned so many ways to teach math that I think will be more exciting to students. It really comes down to collaborative activities rather than just adding numbers repeatedly and memorizing. It’s about using math to solve real-world problems. 

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

This program packs a lot of activities into a very short 14-month period. You’re going to get the best experience possible, but you’ve got to be ready for it. That means that when you arrive, you need to be sure you’re ready to work and ready to put in the effort. Because to experience the true, maximum benefits of this program, you must be willing to put in the work yourself.

“Michael Donaldson, a veteran Marine turned math teacher, is dedicated to inspiring young minds to achieve their fullest potential. With a belief in the universal value of mathematical skills, he fosters interactive classrooms dedicated to creating a collaborative environment where every student can thrive. As the single-subject coordinator, it’s a joy and a privilege to support Michael, and I’m excited to see the further impact of his work on his future goals.”

– Stacy Yung, coordinator, Master of Arts in Teaching program

Read more #IamUCI – Class of 2024 stories