By Lindsay Starr Platt
When someone walks past the seventh-grade math class at South Belton Middle School they may see the teacher Mr. Natale Giambalvo (Mr. G.) standing on a chair wearing a wig and cape as he sings math facts to the class. If a student gets an answer right they may have to catch a ball and go make a free throw at the mini basketball hoop on the wall.
“He makes math better,” said student Hailey Brandt. “And the thing he does differently is he does a lot of games and projects.”
Giambalvo may write the problems on the screen with the wrong answers to see if students can catch his mistake and have a good laugh. Students enjoy the blooper and love to correct the teacher’s math.
“He is funny and he makes math fun and easy to learn,” said student Lane Kirby. “And he makes saving nature part of a math project.”
Even without any costumes or props, Giambalvo has an animated appearance that the students enjoy. He keeps his beard long and his head is bald and shiny, along with a few earrings poked into his left ear.
“He takes math and applies it to projects where it has real world application. My daughters favorite part is that he plays the guitar and has the students wear crazy hats. He is a very out of the box thinker,” said April Luce, parent of a student. “He gets the students involved in their own learning and how it impacts the world they are a part of.”
Giambalvo has been teaching at South Belton Middle School since it opened six years ago. Once from New York City, he said he found Belton on accident. He had been teaching in New York since 2002 and graduated from Concordia University and now also has a masters degree.
“We were here visiting a friend of my wife’s here in Belton and were walking around the neighborhood and spotted a house for sale. I picked the paper out of the box and asked my friend if this what it cost a year to live here, and they said ‘No, that is to buy it’,” said Giambalvo. “Rent in New York can cost around $1,800 a month for less than a 1,000 square feet of an apartment. And here you could get a whole house; the cost of living just blew me away. And now here we are, in Texas, my wife’s home state.”
“I like Mr. G. because he grabs your attention in class and we play games,” said student Hunter Clawson.
Students in Giambalvo’s class have built a community garden. They used the project to learn real life math, such as area, perimeter, and volume. They even learned how much soil it would take to fill the garden.
“Belton is extremely supportive of its teachers. A lot of schools would think my room of being chaos,” said Giambalvo. “Last year was the turning point in my teaching and how to get the math to reflect real life for the kids,” said Giambalvo. “We had a vending machine at the end of the hall that nobody ever used it was lit up and just was there. I had the students figure how much kilowatts it used and how much electricity it used and what revenue it received. The concluded the machine was losing $100 a year. We sent a letter to the school board and the machine was gone the next day.”
Giambalvo also runs the leadership group on campus. He loves to teach conservation of the earth’s resources. Students this year are going to learn about leaky faucets and pipes and to find out how much water their home is wasting. One year he also did a project by collaborating with a class in New York, the classes would teleconference via the internet and do a waste audit project. In the end both the campuses received new recycling bins.
“He actually makes math fun! So far, he is the craziest teacher I have met,” said student Jasmin Sprague.