NKU Honors Seven Inspiring Teachers with Trailblazer Awards

For immediate release…
Wednesday – Oct. 8, 2014

Seven Kentucky teachers will receive the Northern Kentucky University Trailblazer Award for Mathematics Education during a presentation by President Mearns Oct. 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Each of these teachers has persevered in completing rigorous professional learning requirements through a program provided by the Kentucky Center for Mathematics to improve their knowledge and skills for developing primary grades students’ number sense and advanced quantitative reasoning. Each has stepped into leadership roles, influencing other teachers to implement innovative strategies and tools for improving mathematics education.

Now these inspiring teachers will receive their Trailblazer Award in a ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pikeville at 5:30 p.m. as part of the 2014 #RoadToNKU Commonwealth Tour. The university will also recognize the NKU College of Informatics Trailblazer Award winner Leean “Louella” Allen of the Pike County Public Library District.

“The Trailblazer Award is recognition of those citizens throughout the state who are changing lives through new and innovative education programs,” NKU President Geoffrey S. Mearns said.  “With improved math skills and added library capacity, Kentucky's children will be better prepared to meet the demands of this century.”

The event is open to the public and will include an opportunity for high school students and adults interested in completing their degree to meet with university admissions representatives. 

About Trailblazer Award for Mathematics Education winners

Tami Estep, Jenkins Independent School, Letcher County

Through Tami’s hard work during the 2013/2014 school year, her mathematics intervention students made far greater gains than expected. She is an important force behind an astonishing increase of 20.3 points in the percentage of students at her school scoring proficient or distinguished on the Kentucky state test. That number nearly doubled from 23.7 percent in 2012/2013 to 44 percent in 2013/2014.

Brandi Lemaster, Highland Elementary, Johnson County

Brandi works with 75 students each year and she is a valuable resource for 15 colleagues who look to her for tools and strategies to improve the mathematics education experience of all. During the 2013/2014 school year, her students, on average, gained more than 1.3 years of grade level learning during one year of work, leading to a jump of more than 25 percentile points. According to Highland Elementary Principal Shawn Castle, Brandi’s students have exhibited tremendous gains in their confidence in performing math problems and in their class work. Principal Castle also credits her for assisting with improving the school-wide mathematics achievement, as evidenced by an increase in the Kentucky state test scores, up from 51.5 percent proficient or distinguished in 2012/2013 to 59.4 percent in 2013/2014.

Calvin Music, Porter Elementary, Johnson County

After serving 12 years as a police officer, Calvin traded in his badge to join what he calls the “SWAT Team” of math intervention. He says he is honored to work with an elite group of specialists from across the state. Now in his eighth year as a mathematics intervention teacher, Calvin has provided individualized instruction in helping more than 270 students become more successful and confident with mathematics. According to Porter Elementary Principal Sandra Music, Calvin’s leadership work with 20 colleagues has contributed to the school’s overall success. Despite the challenges of serving a student population where more than 75 percent are economically disadvantaged, Porter Elementary is a Kentucky School of Distinction, a Kentucky High Progress School and a National Blue Ribbon School.

Suzanne Bevins, Southside Elementary, Pike County

Suzanne has impacted the school-wide success in her fourth year as a mathematics intervention teacher, evidenced by an additional 8.3 percent of students scoring proficient or distinguished on the 2013/2014 Kentucky state mathematics test compared to the year before.

Tonya Fox, Owsley County Elementary

Although Tonya says she was not a “math person” before becoming a mathematics intervention teacher, she now has a far better understanding of the ways in which children learn math and she has used innovative tools and strategies to help more than 100 students. During the 2013/2014 school year, her intervention students made greater gains than expected, with the second graders achieving 72 percent higher scores than the normal. She says she has a “renewed passion for teaching” and dreams that all elementary and special education teachers could experience intensive math training to better understand early numeracy and enjoy teaching mathematics.

Paula Bates, Beaver Creek Elementary, Knott County

After 20 years teaching, Paula became a mathematics intervention teacher and was transformed as she learned and implemented new tools and strategies for helping students make sense of mathematics. In her five years as an MIT, her 42 students have gained more than 1.5 years of learning achievement in only one year, resulting in some cases in an increase of more than 30 percentile points compared with national norms. In order to help as many students as possible, Paula not only works hard as an innovative MIT to change the lives of her students, she also works as a leader in training approximately 75 primary grades teachers in her school, district, and surrounding area. She helps them to try new ways of teaching, resulting in further inspiration and enthusiasm as they see their students becoming more successful and confident.

DeAnn Gibson, Carr Creek Elementary, Knott County

DeAnn is in her eighth year as a mathematics intervention teacher and has helped more than 150 students. Those students have, on average, made greater gains than expected and, in some cases, increased more than 36 percentile points compared with national norms. She has also contributed to school-wide improvements, working with other teachers who are amazed at what their students are able to do when using innovative methods for assessing and teaching. Since 2011/2012, Carr Creek Elementary has increased the number of its students scoring proficient or distinguished on the state mathematics test by 22.9 percent.

About the #RoadToNKU

The #RoadToNKU is a tour of community engagement activities throughout the Commonwealth. This trip through eastern Kentucky is the second of eight stops through Dec. 4.

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