Most of us have experienced the mortifying moment you accidentally call your teacher mom in class. Yikes. But ever since she began teaching at Miramonte in 2005, students have had all the reasons to call math teacher Cindy Boyko “mom.
A mother of five, walking connoisseur and Cal football enthusiast, Boyko is known for her cheery demeanor and endless entertainment while teaching. Students reflect on fond memories of Boyko’s kind-heartedness and quirky love for coffee, as well as her wise life lessons.
From the time she was in second grade, Boyko knew that teaching was her passion, and often held class for her dolls and stuffed animals after school in the makeshift classroom her parents set up in their garage. “I gave one of my students, Sally, who was a doll, a haircut, and I was really sad when the hair didn’t grow back,” Boyko said. “They were incredibly well-educated toys though.”
Beyond childhood, Boyko attended high school at Loretta, an all girls Catholic school in Sacramento, graduated from Rio Americano High School and went on to UC Berkeley, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Biophysics.
Before becoming a teacher, Boyko worked for a computer company, and traveled to different universities around the country to help them innovate their software programs.
Throughout her experience teaching, Boyko has found that being approachable is one key aspect to connecting with her pupils. “Students need to feel comfortable in the classroom, that what they are learning has value, and that you want them to be successful,” Boyko said. “If they blow it, you will help them find a way out and not dig the hole deeper.”
Boyko classifies her teaching style as “talkative,” and enjoys telling exciting stories in class to keep things new and interesting, allowing her passion for the material to shine through. “I try and change up what I do sometimes and be enthusiastic about what I teach,” she said.
Before she began teaching at Miramonte, Boyko taught at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley and Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland. She currently teaches Algebra A, Math Analysis, Intro into Computer Programming and AP Computer Programming.
“I enjoy getting to interact with students and hopefully make subjects like math and computer programming interesting and accessible. Students make me laugh and teaching lets me feel like my work has value,” Boyko said.
As both a parent and teacher, as well as the advisor for Miramonte’s Diversity Club, Boyko strongly advocates that students have options other than just going straight to college after graduating high school.
“We aren’t all the same. Some people enjoy working with their hands or they are really great with cars, have a fabulous voice, etc. We all have our gifts. If we use our talents well and can appreciate the talents of those around us, there is a decent chance we will be happy,” Boyko said.
When it comes to diversity, Boyko knows the importance of acknowledging our fellow students’ capabilities, creating a generally happier atmosphere for everyone.
“At Miramonte, most of us have so many opportunities and blessings, we need to give back and work toward an environment where everyone feels good about who they are and the talents they bring, an environment where we become better at seeing the world through someone else’s eyes without judgment,” she said.
As an Orinda parent, Boyko acknowledges the added pressures on the students she teaches. “Most of the parents in the community have been successful because of their education; that is the path to success that most people understand. When someone is not on that path, we panic and believe something is wrong,” she said. “Parents want what is best for their child. Sometimes we let our ego take over too much and the picture of what is best for our child gets blurred.”
One of the options that is often overlooked by students is a gap year. Whether it involves travelling, or work and volunteering, Boyko believes that for many people, taking time off is just what they need.
“Taking time to enjoy and learn about people while you are young is a good thing. A year well-spent figuring out what you want to study and/or how you can positively change the planet is a good thing,” Boyko said.
“Sometimes getting off the treadmill gives us time to refocus and when we get back on we have a clearer goal so we work more diligently to reach that goal. Also, young people today won’t work for the same company doing the same job their entire life, so to have a broader knowledge of the world will be necessary. A gap year helps provide this.”
After travelling for two years after college, Boyko deems her experiences priceless, and recommends seeing the world to all young adults. “You interact differently when you are 21 with locals, staying in hostels, etc. than when you are in your 40’s and up staying in nice hotels, visiting galleries, etc. but you don’t really interact with people who live there,” she said.
“It is crucial that all young people have an opportunity to make decisions for themselves and to enjoy their youth.”