Early bird math students get the Worm

The Honors Pre-Calculus teacher leads students into the world of calculus; he seeks to make an upcoming appearance at the Super Bowl in the near future


Mr. Worm helps a struggling student to solve a question about math.

Jacob Zollar, Contributor

Ever since his childhood, Mr. Worm has mentored struggling students and assisted them in understanding the complex aspects included in math. “The most rewarding part is when I can turn confusion into understanding,” he said.


Philip Worm, referred to by students as ‘Mr. Worm’, was hired in Prior Lake during 2004 and has taught virtually every subject of math for fourteen years. He currently instructs four hours of Honors Pre-Calculus and one hour of Algebra II.


While growing up in the small town of Montgomery, MN, Worm realized that he appreciated helping others to learn the intricate nuances of math. Although Montgomery Lonsdale failed to appear as the most illustrious school, Mr. Worm attributes his teaching techniques partly as a result of studying at a school with a strong sense of community.


When first beginning, Mr. Worm quickly realized his potential teaching ability would translate best into a high school system. “Interactions with high schoolers is like talking to adults,” he said. “It is not hard to interact with them.”


Throughout his career, Mr. Worm has implemented creative techniques in order to make the lessons less dry and to establish a connection with his students. Various strategies include teaching the ASTC (All Students Take Crack) acronym when teaching whether trigonometric functions are positive or negative, while also creating smiley faces when completing a trigonometric identity.


Junior Alex Nguyen, who has enrolled in advanced math classes throughout his entire high school career, supports Mr. Worm’s class structure. “He finds ways to entertain his students in a subject that isn’t fun to do, especially if you don’t understand the concept. He also explains how to do the problems in a different way when you don’t understand it,” Nguyen said.


Recently this year, Worm has installed the ability to retake daily problems into his math class. He spends approximately two hours per day correcting stacks of papers, in addition to quizzes and tests.


However, he has risen up to the challenge and adapted to the new amount of work. “You have to be able to multitask, otherwise you won’t get everything done,” Mr. Worm said.


Worm allows unlimited retakes on daily assignments, because he believes it will build confidence in his students and allow them to perform at their highest level during tests. He said, “Allowing them to retake is installing in them the habit of focusing where their struggles are. . . It is a very powerful learning tool.”


Outside the classroom, Mr. Worm displays his avid passion for sports in consistently watching them. “Any team from Minnesota is a team I cheer for. I’m a down-home individual.” Also, he  performs as a ref for many high school and college football games.


Mr. Worm believes math has largely influenced the way professional athletes prepare against other opponents. He realizes that math has become a large aspect in sports, including in NBC Sunday Night Football games, when the crew can calculate the angles and potential distance of kicks.


While Worm is pulling for the Vikings to possibly make a deep run in the Playoffs, he also aspires to appear as Mr. Beier’s guest for the Super Bowl.


On October 12, 2018, Prior Lake’s Calculus teacher Daniel Beier won a football shootout at the TCO Performance game against Lakeville North. Instead of receiving a pair of home tickets to a regular season game, the Vikings surprised him with two tickets to Atlanta on February 3 for the Super Bowl.


Numerous faculty members are making a push to become the potential guest, including Mr. Worm and A.P. U.S. History teacher Joseph Mestnik. A somewhat hostile rivalry has resulted between Worm and Mestnik as the postseason push for football heats up.


Mr. Worm believes that his football IQ and knowledge of the game results in him categorizing as the suitable partner to most efficiently satisfy the Super Bowl experience for Mr. Beier. “He is good at watching football. He’s definitely a possibility,” said Beier.


On the other hand, Mestnik’s flamboyant personality propels him to become a prominent candidate as well. “Mestnik is Mestnik,” said Beier, “He likes to stir the pot.”


Mr. Worm responded to the affirmation by saying, “Mr. Mestnik is a big talker. He talks a big game.” Furthermore, Mr. Worm inferred that Mrs. Mestnik, Mr. Mestnik’s wife and another math teacher at the Prior Lake High School, holds a better chance of going to Atlanta when compared to her husband.


Along with the friendly competition, other teachers appreciate Mr. Worm’s charisma, including David Graham. Graham, an A.P. Language & Composition teacher at Prior Lake High School, enjoys listening to his jokes. “I think he is pretty funny. He has a sense of humor students don’t always appreciate,” Graham said.


Besides solely correcting homework, Worm’s duty as a teacher consists of behavioral discipline. Although teaching specific math lessons categorizes as vital for his job, Mr. Worm ensures that his class allows for the students to competently prepare for the real world. When addressing kids who do not appear focused, Worm says, “They’re good individuals. You have to do more individual conversation with them.”


Mr. Worm’s teaching strategies stretch outside the numbers in both maturing and intellectually disciplining his students for their future.