Michael Caraco ’92
B.A. Math/Secondary Education
Math Teacher, Department Chair, Burr & Burton Academy (grades 9 to 12) Manchester, Vermont
Hometown: Mayfield, New York
Current residence; North Bennington, Vermont
Growing up in a large family in a small town, Michael Caraco found he really liked math.
“It was a place where I could escape, where things worked in a logical and ordered manner, a place where I found success, and a place where things made sense,” he says. “This was in contrast to the ‘real world,’ where logic and reason weren’t always present.”
Caraco assumed that one day he’d go into medicine or a related field. But after three semesters of studying biomedical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute he finally accepted what he had long suspected: Engineering was not the right fit. It was helping others learn math and science, he realized, that he enjoyed most.
He made the difficult decision to leave, and transferred to Saint Rose, where he made close connections with several professors and soon saw that he had chosen correctly. The lessons were real-life, he said, and his faculty and classmates pushed him to understand who he could be as an educator.
Now, 25 years later Caraco has enjoyed a range of experiences teaching young adults of varying abilities, interests, and socioeconomic backgrounds, in public and private schools and colleges in different regions. Since 2006, he has been at Burr & Burton Academy, an independent high school which draws students from a broad geographic area and around the world.
He has not only taught math from middle school pre-algebra to college algebra, but also coached football, basketball, softball, lacrosse and soccer. Caraco has written curriculum and state assessments, conducted workshops on the use of technology in education, collaborated on a calculus workbook and pushed himself and his colleagues to get more students connected to STEM fields. Like any good teacher, he continues to explore pedagogies.
Caraco, of course, finds it rewarding to share his love of his content area. To help one student who suffered from text anxiety he made a video of himself shredding her test and sent it to her with a note saying that he had exorcised the test-demons. The silly exercise worked. She nailed the exam and developed into one of his strongest math students.
But it has also been just as important to make a connection with those who do not ultimately share his love of math – which he acknowledges accounts for a good many . Caraco made a strong impact one such student by introducing him to a local glass blower. The experience netted a summer internship that blossomed into a career.
“I work very hard to help individuals make progress in whatever I can – whether that’s getting a better understanding of the interplay of numbers, or to see the broader trends in mathematics , or simply helping them through the challenges of adolescence,” says Caraco. “I work hard, but I really do feel like it makes a difference.”