“Math Rules! became my life. I lived and breathed it for many years. And, I never stopped talking about it, even my family used to say that to me. I took my work very seriously, and I cared about every individual teacher and every individual volunteer.”
– Wendy Beninati, former Math Rules! Program Manager
This past year, Boston Partners in Education said goodbye to our dear friend and longest-serving employee, Wendy Beninati, who retired after over a decade of service. As the Program Manager for Math Rules!, Wendy maintained the kind of calming and encouraging presence that brought her volunteers back year after year. Though Math Rules! has since been folded and integrated into what is now our Accelerate Math program, we wanted to use this celebration of our 50th anniversary to look back at the impact that Wendy and Math Rules! had on Boston Partners in Education.
Wendy is a strong believer in the potential that mentors can have in the quality of their students’ lives, because she saw the effects firsthand with her daughter. “I personally hated math myself, but I got through it as best I could. But I also watched my daughter struggle. And then, she had this math teacher who said, ‘If she comes to me after school, I will help her’.”
Wendy watched as her daughter and the teacher became closer. “This teacher was very young, and she was trying to become friends with her girls. They’d go to baseball games. They even went to see Dave Matthews together. She was a mentor.” This relationship helped encourage her daughter to persevere through her school work. “She was able to get the SAT’s down. She got through it, and she got accepted into college.”
As her daughter was graduating high school, Wendy was moving from a part-time position at Boston Partners, to a full-time one as the first Math Rules! Program Manager. Beginning as the Math and Literacy initiative, Math Rules! quickly proved to be a promising model that would shape Boston Partners’ core academic programming: A volunteer sits with a group of three or four elementary school students who would benefit from some extra help during class time. This volunteer is then able to spot and correct small misunderstandings that might become a wide knowledge gap, and allow the teacher to focus on other students who need more help.
Wendy believes that volunteers appreciated the model, because it allowed them to focus on the material with the students. “Because it was an in-class volunteer position, rather than pulling kids out of the classroom, it was something that the volunteers really appreciated. They weren’t in charge of the kids, discipline-wise. They were in the classroom, listening to the lesson of the day, and working with the students under the direction of the teacher,” said Wendy.
An hour a week provided the opportunity to make a significant impact on many students, and proved to be quite meaningful to the volunteers. While the focus of Math Rules! was academic, many volunteers found themselves making heartfelt connections with the students, often following those students to their new classrooms each year until they graduated from elementary school. Others found particular admiration for the teacher with whom they were assigned, and became reliable fixtures in the classroom.
After her retirement, Wendy left a legacy of loyal volunteers and the hundreds of students they served throughout her tenure. Math Rules! operated for over a decade, helping students advance and achieve in mathematics. As we look forward to our new suite of programs this year, we remember what made Math Rules! such a success: that the core of our programs are supported by the relationship between mentor and student.