Juliana Newman joined the Forman community this year as a Math Teacher. Juliana is also a Dorm Parent in Lodge. She was identified as academically and emotionally gifted in elementary school and diagnosed in college with anxiety disorder and ADHD. Juliana says her late diagnosis provided her with clarity for her struggles in school as a child.
“I spent 18 years of my life not understanding why I struggled with severe procrastination, executive functioning, perfectionism, paying attention, and not panicking on every attempt at an assignment,” she says.
“I had to find ways to get work done in school, and I couldn't figure out why I struggled to complete assignments easily compared to my other peers. I heard consistently from teachers, ‘you could do so much better if you just tried,’ as if I wasn't working every night through panic attacks to get good grades,” she continues. “Once I was diagnosed, I was finally able to understand why my brain worked the way it did, and I learned to advocate for help from my professors when I needed it.”
As a teacher, Juliana says she has an understanding of what students with learning differences (LDs) are going through.
“In my four years of teaching, I've found that many students do not know how to advocate for themselves, or are scared to do so, and I try to make my class as open to doing so and encourage my students to tell me what they need,” she says. “I also realized, especially in math, that many students with LDs think much differently, and many have been scolded for doing a problem the "wrong" way (myself included). I always try to understand where the student is and understand their preferences in regards to solving problems, and encourage them to solve them using the way that makes the most sense to them, not the way that makes the most sense to me.”
She finds that students appreciate it when she shares her experiences of having learning differences.
“My first year of teaching, I mentioned I had an anxiety disorder to the class when we were discussing stress around homework, and I watched three students in my class visibly relax as I told them,” she says. “Afterward, they thanked me for being open about my anxiety disorder; knowing they were not alone made these students feel so much better. From then on, I have told my students every year.”
Juliana adds that students look to her and recognize that they too can be successful.
“I've found that being a woman with LDs in the STEM field has shown students, especially girls, that it is possible to succeed in STEM fields even with LDs, and I've had students tell me that seeing me as a successful adult gives them hope for their own futures,” she says.
Furthermore, she offers encouraging words to students who may think they will not find success.
“You are absolutely amazing and intelligent, no matter what anyone says, and you will find your strengths and your passions, and you will succeed,” she advises. “Don't give up, and don't let people who don't understand your experiences tell you otherwise.”