Mr. Paul Foerster

Math Department

Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry
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Mr. Foerster retired from Alamo Heights High School in 2011 after a 40 year teaching career.


Paul Adolph Foerster

B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Texas, Trinity University, Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, Oak Ridge School of Reacter Technology. Masters Degree in Mathematics
Four years as an engineering duty officer with the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program.

In 1983, the State of Texas bestowed upon him, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching.

Most influential teacher: Mr. Paul Adolph Foerster, who did not teach me to love math, but from whom I learned to love math, and from whom I also learned how to teach. I don't believe that people should change something about themselves for no better reason than that someone else wants them to. However, we sometimes choose to make a change in ourselves because of what we see in someone else. In this context, exactly four persons come to my mind. Because of my knowing these four and seeing something about them that I admired, I chose to make changes in myself. Mr. Foerster was the first of the four; my wife is the fourth. ~ Charlie Beck, 2001

I have been reading in the newspaper this week all about Mr. Foerster’s retirement and having my own fond memories. He was the most “fair” teacher, the most hopeful for his students. I remember he let us keep taking quizzes until we passed. Who does that?
But his final trigonometry exam astounded me. I remember we were all in the auditorium. The exam was a packet of pages. Overwhelming just by that. So, I began to read through the questions that inevitably began with something like, “You are the navigator of a submarine somewhere off the coast of….” Being a diligent (and an “A” student), I carefully read each question and answered the ones I could. When I got to the end and counted up the points I would get if I got everything I answered correctly, I realized that I would fail the exam! Wow. That just did not happen to me. I was stunned, and then, having another hour and half to work on it, I thought, “Well, why not just read the questions again. What have you got to lose?” Then, the Foerster Magic happened. I think I must have been channeling him, really. I don’t know how I somehow just “got” what he was asking, what equations fit the problem, and how to solve them. ALL OF THEM, even the extra credit!!! I made 105 on the final. Forty years later, I can barely believe it.
- Jana Orsinger, May 25, 2011

I had Mr. Foerster for Trigonometry ……. maybe the best teacher ever ……. very creative lesson plans and teaching techniques….. Definitely outside the box…… made math real world…. almost inspired me to become an engineer…… instead I became a pilot.
- Colin Campbell, May 2011

From Senior Issue of Hoof Print 1970/1971

Heading the list of favorites of the senior class this year was Mr. Paul Foerster.

Deborah Williams selected Mr. Foerster as her favorite because "He was able to relate algebra to the real world and to me." "Because of the help he gave me," was the reason Bob Johnson gave for selecting the trig teacher. Charles Beck, Robert Comer, Polly McClanahan, David Ramos, Richard Woolley and Terry Wang were others who selected Mr. Foerster as their favorite member of the faculty. Debbie Hendrick summed it up as she wrote, "He is a good teacher."

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Paul A. Foerster
Key Press Article

Paul Foerster has been teaching mathematics at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, Texas, since 1961. After earning a BS in chemical engineering, he served four years as an engineering duty officer with the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program. Tutoring high school students while on active duty, he found his true passion — seeing students get the "Aha!" reaction as they finally grasp new concepts. After completing his Navy service, he went back to college for a spring and a summer to get his teaching certification. His teaching has been interrupted only by a year's leave of absence to earn a master's degree in mathematics through an academic year institute awarded by the National Science Foundation.

As a teacher, Paul drew upon his engineering experience to write for his students problems in which functions are used as mathematical models of phenomena in the real world. These problems allowed students to experience the fact that variables really vary, taking on different values in different parts of the problem, an important concept in the preparation for calculus. He compiled these problems into text form so that he would not have to run off all those handouts each year. The materials have a credibility that can come only from being written while on the job, getting immediate feedback from students.

Although Paul is most comfortable in the classroom with his own students, he shares what he has learned via presentations each year at local, regional, and national meetings for high school teachers and students. He was his state's recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching in 1983, the first year of the award.

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