Community Spotlight: Joanne Spalla

March 13, 2024

Actuaries. High quality 2d illustration

It’s hard to believe that I have been an actuary for forty years. I consider myself blessed that I learned about this fantastic career from my high school AP math teacher and math team coach.

Despite their encouragement, I was not convinced that I wanted to be an actuary, and the university I attended didn’t even have an actuarial science program. Most people don’t know that I have an education degree with a concentration in math. I enjoyed my experience as a student teaching math to fifth and sixth grade students.

A couple of years after graduating, I finally decided to take a chance and sit for my first actuarial exam. I was shocked that I passed! I was hooked and decided to pursue a property casualty actuarial career. I have never regretted the decision that led me to a stimulating and stable career as an actuary.

I heard about The Actuarial Foundation when it was in its early days.  Its mission to promote math education resonated with me and I became an annual donor. Years later I was seated at an actuarial meeting dinner next to a Foundation Trustee. I asked him how I could become more involved in advancing The Foundation’s mission.  I was honored when I was nominated to join the TAF Board of Trustees. The first Foundation event that I attended was the first Modeling the Future Challenge. I was so impressed with the caliber of the finalists. I wished that competitions such as Hardest Math Problem and Modeling the Future had existed back in my middle school and high school days.

Of course, I realize that not every student is as fortunate to have the same educational opportunities that I was privileged to have. I am gratified that the Math Motivators tutoring program provides support to enable students, particularly in underserved communities, so that they can enjoy the opportunities that competency in math provides.

I am excited that the Foundation is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. I am vice-chair of the Gala Planning Committee with the chair, Tonya Manning, and TAF Interim Executive Director, Valerie Thompson. The highlight of the virtual program will be our Keynote Speaker, Ellen Ochoa, an engineer and former astronaut.

We recently had a Zoom meeting with Ms. Ochoa where we learned about her pioneering career as the first Latina to go into space and the first Latine and second female director of the Johnson Space Center.  She shares TAF’s mission to transform future opportunities for the next generation by helping them to become proficient in mathematics and other STEM fields. In addition to hearing Ms. Ochoa share her story during the program, you will hear from impressive students who have participated in our programs.

I hope that you will join us on Thursday, May 9, 2024 from 5:00-6:00 PM Central to celebrate our accomplishments over the past 30 years and learn about our exciting plans for the future. You can register for the virtual Gala here. Registration is free. I hope to see you there.

Guest author: Joanne Spalla

Categories: 30th Anniversary, Blog, Foundation News