This Queens math teacher started mentoring Ukrainian educators after Russia’s invasion

This Queens math teacher started mentoring Ukrainian educators after Russia’s invasion

High school math teacher Larisa Bukalov came to the U.S. with her family 30 years ago as a refugee from Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union. She was 19 at the time.

In the eyes of many New Yorkers, she was Russian, which was her first language. How she viewed herself, however, changed when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

“The words can’t describe the pain and anxiety I experienced when the first tanks started advancing to Kyiv,” said Bukalov, who’s been teaching at Bayside High School in Queens for 25 years. “On that day, my identity changed from Russian emigrant to Ukrainian American.”

Remembering how her own childhood was filled with math competitions that pushed her to feel challenged and engaged, she wrote to the Mathematical Association of America, asking if she could organize the American Mathematics Competition in Ukraine, since that nation’s local and regional competitions had been canceled. To Bukalov’s surprise, the math organization agreed to her plan. Bukalov assumed the role as the association’s liaison to Ukraine.

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