Ashley Stainback deepens her appreciation for math on European highlights tour

Ninth Grade Girls Chair and eleventh and twelfth grade math teacher Ashley Stainback is beginning the 2022-2023 school year with a fresh appreciation of math thanks to the Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant. Over the summer, Stainback and her husband took an 11-day European highlights tour. The tour allowed Stainback to reflect on her love for math as she studied the architectural design of buildings created by early architects, who Stainback believes were also mathematicians and artists.  
“Where [my husband] sees the design from a structural perspective, I see it from a mathematical perspective. I want to create the equations that represent an arch or a circle. I want to model the spoked road design in terms of angles and potentially the unit circle,” states Stainback.  

Stainback’s tour began in London, where she toured Parliament and watched debates in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. From there, Stainback traveled to Paris, where she saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre Museum. 

“We enjoyed a scenic cruise down the Seine River where we saw Notre Dame Cathedral with all of the scaffolding,” recalls Stainback. 

Following Paris, Stainback traveled to Lucerne, which she described as a lovely town in Switzerland with a beautiful Jesuit Church and 650-year-old chapel bridge. Next, Stainback landed in Bergamo where she took an orientation walk through Bergamo Alta, founded in 196 B.C. on the hill in Italy.  

“I would have stayed in Bergamo for the entire trip exploring the medieval architecture, Venetian walls, and the authentic Italian town off the beaten path with its cobbled lanes,” explains Stainback. “It's slow pace was refreshing.” 

Stainback ended her tour with Venice, Florence, and Rome. In Venice, she took a water-taxi ride through the Grand Canal and a breath-taking gondola ride. In her four hours in Florence, Stainback saw the Florence Cathedral, Baptistry, and Signoria Square. Once she reached her final destination in Rome, Stainback toured the Vatican, stood in the Sistine Chapel, and marveled at Michelangelo’s masterpiece. She visited St. Peter’s Square and toured the Basilica. She also toured the Colosseum and wandered around Rome, enjoying the ruins of the forums and many basilicas. 

When reflecting on the many lessons learned on her trip, Stainback recalls that she felt peace and a sense of God’s presence in the small, yet beautiful churches that were “less touristy.” 

Stainback is excited to tell her students about her experience and encourage them to see the beauty of math in the world around them.

“I cannot wait to take some time and research the dimensions of many of the buildings, arches, etc. that we saw and begin the process of working them into my curriculum,” shares Stainback. “Maybe some of my students will see the brilliance in the designs and be inspired.” 

The Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant encourages faculty to pursue a lifetime of learning. Grant recipients may apply their funds to study, volunteer work, Christian missions, research, or other scholarly activities. High school visual arts teacher Meagan Brooker and lower school teacher Laura Jensen also earned a 2022 Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant. Read more about Jensen’s story here and Brooker’s story here.