Ms. V: Incalculable


Ms. V with her daughter and grandchildren                 photo courtesey of Zoya Voskoboynikov

Zoya Voskoboynikov came to San Francisco in 1991 from Odessa, Ukraine. She moved to the United States with her husband, daughter, and parents, in the midst of a wave of immigration. “We did not leave the country for simple reasons,” Voskoboynikov explained. “It is not something that can be explained in a sentence.” Voskoboynikov and her family had resisted immigrating for a long time, while many around them took the first opportunity possible to leave the Ukraine. Finally, the combination of anti-semitism, lack of opportunities, and other factors brought the family to San Francisco.

When Voskoboynikov came to San Francisco, she already had nearly 20 years of experience teaching math in the USSR, but in order to prepare for teaching math in the US, she took English classes and observed math classes taught by Russian professors. She soon interviewed for teaching positions at a few different schools and quickly settled on a job offer from Lick; she began teaching here in 1992.

The transition to teaching here from teaching in the USSR was “easy, mathematically,” Voskoboynikov said, but not easy for culture and language. Still, being at Lick made the transition a good experience. “This school, I loved at first sight,” Voskoboynikov recalled “and I was not disappointed. The students here were very accepting, and although I made my errors and had my accent, I was accepted.”

When asked about favorite memories from her time teaching at Lick, Voskoboynikov smiled as she recalled a story she often recounts to her math classes. “In precalculus, when we study side side angle case for law of sines, I was writing on the board, and I wrote on the board, in this order—A S S— and every table was smiling, but no one said a word. Only afterwards I realized something was wrong!”

Now, after 23 years of teaching, Voskoboynikov is looking forward to spending more time with her family. The main reason for retiring now, she said, is to spend time with her grandchildren, aged eleven and seven. “I want to still have time,” she explained, “to effect their education, and to help my daughter with them—adults are all so busy!”

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