28 Feb

Educator Spotlight: Traveling Miss T.

By Phoebe Hill

Natalie Teboul, camp counselor turned educator and business owner, is well on her way to becoming the modern-day Ms. Frizzle. Better known as Traveling Miss T., her endlessly cheery social media presence as the Pilot of the Coordinate Plane has earned her a loyal following and partnerships with nonprofits nationwide. Miss. T. confesses she hadn’t always dreamed of becoming a teacher. She “fell into teaching” when accepted for New York City’s Teaching Fellows program immediately after graduating from SUNY Binghamton. Despite having no formal background in math, she soon found herself tasked with teaching fractions to a room full of sixth graders in the Bronx. Learning to take her new role as a math teacher in stride, she taught in New York City’s public schools for a few years before moving to California to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing.

It was in California where she first stumbled upon her big idea. Instead of teaching her fifth-grade class about the 50 states and coordinate geometry separately, she combined the two requirements, creating her signature “Math Maps”. She figured, “Why not combine math with geography?” After all, Miss T. sees our obsession with disciplinary labels as one of the education system’s most serious flaws. As she says, “If you’re going to engage a kid in learning, you have to incorporate everything”.

It is not just the interdisciplinary flavor of Miss T.’s approach that sets her apart, but also her unique embrace of social media as an educational tool. After navigating the difficulties of online instruction during the pandemic, she learned an important lesson, “It’s 2024, every single kid is on social media – instead of going against it… just join them”. She sees social media usage amongst middle schools as an inevitable fact of life. Her influencer-style content aims to incorporate learning about protecting our planet, or exposure to our national parks system to our social scrolling.

In addition to her background in math instruction, Miss. T. is clearly passionate about geography. Her Math Maps are the perfect tool for meaningfully reintroducing the subject into American classrooms where it has long been sidelined. She laments the lack of support for the subject in U.S. schools, adding that many kids struggle to identify the fifty states and name their capitals – let alone learn about the world beyond American borders. To Miss T., Geographical education provides an understanding of the U.S. and the broader world which, in turn, allows students to better understand other cultures. With reference to the role of Geography in enhancing equity and inclusion, she adds, “if you can’t understand the world around you”, how can you “understand the cultures around you.” 

Moreover, Miss. T. sees her educational content as key for tackling the inequitable policies which have long governed access to both geographical information and physical spaces like our national parks. “All this comes back to equity, the way we don’t share the world, the way we don’t share our public lands,” she emphasizes, underscoring the importance of sharing geographical knowledge with as many young people as possible. She further relates the study of geography as essential to addressing the increasingly dire threat of climate change, emphasizing how “we can’t protect our planet if we don’t know our place on the planet”. 

Traveling Miss T., like many other geography educators, is no stranger to hard work. While she no longer teaches full-time in the classroom, she is busy running a tutoring business and works endlessly to get her Math Maps out to as many students as possible. All the while, she churns out free social media content and is busy compiling a database of all American public lands, also available for free on her website. With big ideas about improving the education system in America, and creative, compelling tools for bringing about such change, Miss. T. may be as close as you can get to a super teacher. 

Check out her page here! https://www.instagram.com/travelingmisst/