Class Act: Math teacher Garvin Gaston


Garvin Gaston (’99) started working at St. John’s this year as an Algebra II and Geometry teacher after most recently working at an African safari.

Leila Pulaski, Staff Writer

Having worked everywhere from a band booking agency to an African safari company, Algebra II and Geometry teacher Garvin Gaston (’99) did not take a traditional path to becoming a teacher.

Gaston never guessed that she would return to St. John’s. Although she wanted to pursue math in college, she ended up majoring in political science at Emory University in Atlanta when the frustrating difficulty of two math classes during her freshman year dissuaded her from a mathematics degree.

“I took Abstract Algebra I, which kicked my butt, and the follow-up that I was going to have to take was Algebra II,” Gaston said. “And I was like ‘no, that’s not going to happen.’”

The Houston native moved back after college and worked a variety of jobs, including substitute teaching at St. Agnes and St. John’s, working for a band booking agency, serving as an oil and gas landman and finally working for a friend’s safari company in Tanzania.

“Working in Tanzania was just one of the most amazing experiences,” Gaston said.

After working in Tanzania for three months, Gaston returned to the United States to spend more time with her family. She pursued a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Vermont, completing the education she had started at Emory.

“You can always go off and have an adventure,” Gaston said, “but it’s so nice to come back home.”

After graduate school, Gaston decided to return to teaching rather than pursue a PhD because of how much she loved her experience as a substitute teacher. According to Gaston, working on abstract mathematics as a graduate student had been enough research and left her with little interest in moving into a doctorate program.

“I got a glimpse of what that life was like, and I didn’t want it,” Gaston said. “I enjoyed writing the thesis, but a year of research was enough.”

Gaston saw a job listing while living in Vermont and decided to apply. The opportunity to teach at her alma mater and live near her family was too good to pass up.

“I had my fingers crossed so hard about the job because that is really what I wanted,” Gaston said.

According to her students, Gaston has been a welcome addition to the math department.

“When I get lost, she will explain problems to me fully until I totally understand what’s going on,” sophomore Sydney Buchman said.

Gaston is not the only Garvin working at St. John’s, as fellow Geometry and Algebra II teacher Austin Garvin was often mistaken for her at the beginning of the year. Students have shown up in wrong rooms, and teachers have mistakenly emailed the wrong Garvin since August.

“I had a teacher think they emailed me to ask me to cover their class, but they actually had emailed [Ms. Gaston],” Austin Garvin said.

Gaston notes that the school feels much more accommodating than when she was in high school.

“The feel of the school is the same, and some of the traditions are the same as when I was here, but it’s a much friendlier place.”