Time to Be Still

President's Blog
Mona Toncheff
July 2020

We must cultivate mental stillness to succeed in life and to successfully navigate the many crisis it throws our way.”

– Ryan Holiday

Summertime is my time to relax, spend time with family and catch up on my reading. I love to read and learn new strategies or get lost in a good story. A friend gave me a book for Christmas and I finally had time to sit down to read it this summer. Ironically, the title is “Stillness is the Key” by Ryan Holiday.

In the book, stillness is defined as, “to be steady while the world spins around you” (Holiday, 2019, p. XV).  Since March, there has not been much time to be still and my work life has grown incredibly noisy.  I travel for work and, though I have been home since March 13th, I feel like I have been busier than ever.  I know this feeling is mutual as I have spoken to many colleagues and moving work to the virtual world has taken a toll.  Finding time to be still sometimes feels out of reach. 

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Statement on #BlackLivesMatter #BeTheChange

President's Blog
Mona Toncheff
June 2020

“There must be acknowledgement of the unjust system of mathematics education, its legacy in segregation and other forms of institutional systems of oppression, and the hard work needed to change it.”  

-NCSM and TODOS 

As President and President-Elect of NCSM: Leadership in Mathematics Education, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of our colleagues, mathematics leaders, and those we serve across North America. Our careers have been dedicated to making mathematics accessible and successful for all students, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. 

For decades, we have taught classes and served mathematics teachers amidst a backdrop of racial and ethnic violence, most recently including Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and now George Floyd. 

We hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who described rioting as the language of the unheard. As a mathematics leader, how are we providing a voice to the unheard?  

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Thank You!

President's Blog
Mona Toncheff
April 2020

Do you know that there is science behind gratitude? Research has shown that gratitude can improve your well-being, increase your resilience, and strengthen your social relationships.  Best of all, it can reduce stress and depression. The more grateful people are, the greater their overall well-being and life satisfaction.

Even though the use of the phrase “thank you” dates back hundreds of years ago, the concept of gratitude is still part of human interactions. In fact, nearly every language includes words or phrases used to thank someone – words such as Gracias, Merci, Arigatou, Danke, Grazie, just to name a few.  The use of gratitude is powerful and demonstrates how human communication can survive across different cultures and times.

I come from generations of “Thank you” card writers and I still have some of them to re-read and recall great memories.  And one of my favorite late-night segments is from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  I thoroughly enjoy his Friday night Thank you Notes sketches.  There is nothing better than gratitude with a side of humor. 

With that in mind, I end this blog with a heartfelt thank you to the NCSM board and NCSM members who have given their time and expertise during the 2019-2020 school year.  Please take a moment to read and also thank the people who have done so much for our mathematical leadership community.  You are all so very appreciated!

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#bethechange

President's Blog
Mona Toncheff
March 2020

About a year ago, #NCSM19 attendees were part of micro-philanthropy movement called the Social Butterfly.  My friend, Tasha Wahl, founded the Butterfly Effect in 2013, in which she combined Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world” with Edward Lorenz’s “Butterfly Effect” theory that even the softest flutter of a wing can affect the molecules around it, setting off a chain reaction that produces major change. Attendees who took pictures in front of Social Butterfly at the 2019 NCSM Annual Conference and shared the photos on social media, helped NCSM raise $500 for the Iris Carl Travel Grant

We planned to continue the new tradition at #NCSM20 in Chicago, but we are not headed to Chicago this week.  However, not being together with the ability to physically be in front of our social butterfly is not going to stop us! 

NCSM invites you to #bethechange again and submit your selfie with one of the #butterflyBTC social butterflies. For each selfie submitted via email to   by 4/10/2020, a $1.00 will be donated to the NCSM Iris Travel Grant Award. 

Here are the steps to participate. 

  1. Print one of the butterflies or display it on your computer, laptop or iPad.
    1. The first version is colored and ready for the selfie. Click HERE for the first version. 
    2. The second version is a blank butterfly to show us your creativity.  Click HERE for the second version. 
  2. Take a selfie with the butterfly. 
  3. Email the selfie to to by 4/10/2020. 
  4. Optional but our favorite step: Be sure to post on social media and use #butterflyBTC and tag @mathedleaders. 

NCSM established the Iris Carl Mathematics Leadership Fund, within the NCSM Charitable Trust, which endows the Grant. As long as there are sufficient funds, NCSM will annually provide up to three Iris Carl Grant Awards for Travel to eligible NCSM members to attend the NCSM Annual Conference.

The fund is supported by generous donations from individuals. To support the fund, you may use the QR code to donate via the Facebook Fundraiser or you can mail a check in any amount payable to: NCSM Charitable Trust and mail to: Linda Griffith, NCSM Treasurer, PO Box 3406, Englewood, CO 80155.

Thank you in advance for your support of this important award with our fundraiser. We look forward to seeing your pictures soon. Here are some of the 2019-2020 NCSM board members showing how they can #bethechange! 

Finally, congratulations to the three awardees of the 2020 Iris Carl Travel Grant Award for Chicago!  Since they were not able to use their awards for Chicago, each Award will be used for the NCSM Summit in St. Louis, MO or the NCSM Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA in 2021. 

President Message: March Insider

President's Blog
Mona Toncheff
March 2020

“The healthiest response to life is joy.” – Mark Twain

This is the second version of the March Insider I have written this month. I like to get ahead of timelines, and the original version was filled with excitement as we approached the two-week countdown to the 52nd Annual Conference.  However, with the unforeseen changes over the last few weeks across the country, NCSM had to cancel its premiere mathematics leadership event in Chicago, Illinois. 

On my unexpected plane flight home Thursday, I needed time to reflect on the changes that occurred over the week, time to process the impact of cancelling NCSM’s annual conference, and time to make sense of my feelings.  On the first leg of the flight, I just started journaling my thinking.  Below is my reflection that I shared on Facebook. 

This week is going to be remembered for many reasons in the future. The news was ever changing and full of highs and lows.  However, I will remember that this week is when the NCSM board had to make an incredibly difficult and heart-wrenching decision!  I will remember the sadness of not being able to see my mathematics family and friends that I only see during the “math week” of the year. I will remember the news and the despair as I walked through a school today that was notified at noon that they would be closing for the next two weeks. There was a sense of uncertainty in the air. 

However, tonight, I want to remember something different. I want to remember the countless hours the NCSM conference committee volunteered this past year to build an exceptional conference program. I want to remember the feeling of anticipation to share the newest NCSM resources as I read the final proof of the latest book in the NCSM Essential Action Series and the newest position statement on Detracking. I want to remember the excitement on social media as the speakers were posting their “I am a speaker” badge.  I want to remember the sponsors and exhibitors that continue to support NCSM.  I want to remember the passion and energy of the volunteers that lead this organization.  

I will not pretend that the last few weeks were a walk in the park. However, tonight I choose to remember the joy!

We all need time to process how we are feeling with the events of the world and their effect on our daily lives.  In that reflection, while there is disappointment with not being able to convene at the annual conference, let’s also remember the joy.  Let’s celebrate the work of the NCSM conference committee and Program Chair.  They dedicated countless hours to put together a program to ensure mathematics leaders could Connect. Collaborate and Commit to increased student learning.  Let’s appreciate the speakers willingness to share their expertise for the betterment of the mathematics leadership community. Let’s thank the NCSM board and volunteers who worked diligently on the NCSM initiatives and projects to unveil  at the annual conference.  Let’s acknowledge and celebrate our beloved sponsors who gave freely of their resources to support the mathematics leadership community. 

Thinking of all of the people and sponsors who worked so tirelessly to create an incredible annual conference are the thoughts that bring a smile to my face. Thinking of those of you coming to attend and contribute to NCSM’s mathematics leadership network brings me joy. Thank you to each and every one of you for your work in the past and your continued work in the future – for being bold as you grow the mathematics learning of students. The quote from Mark Twain resonated with me as I sat down to write my this NCSM Insider and I hope it will inspire you too. 

How will you choose joy in the next few weeks? 




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