NKU Honors Inspiring Teachers with Trailblazer Awards in Bowling Green

For immediate release…
Friday – Oct. 24, 2014

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Nine Kentucky teachers will receive the Northern Kentucky University Trailblazer Award for Mathematics Education during a presentation by President Mearns Oct. 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Each of these mathematics intervention teachers (MITs) 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 Bowling Green at 5:30 p.m. as part of the 2014 #RoadToNKU Commonwealth Tour.

“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

Tammy Blair, Bonnieville Elementary School in Hart County

After serving 15 years as a special education assistant and 12 years as a primary grades teacher, Tammy joined the KCM community three years ago. Since then, she has directly helped about 75 students and indirectly assisted about 450 students.

Regarding her KCM professional learning experience, she says, “My eyes were opened to numerical knowledge and I gained an understanding of and the resources to more effectively teach number development.”

Tammy also says she now can provide the teachers in her building and the district with resources and strategies to help students in the regular classroom. She also co-presented a professional development on fractions for the whole school district and received positive reviews from all attendees. Tammy’s dream is to “help all students discover that they are important and that they have the ability to do whatever they choose!”

Jan Estes, Auburn Elementary School in Logan County

Throughout her eight years of mathematics intervention teaching and professional learning as a member of the Kentucky Center for Mathematics community, Jan has honed her skills to listen carefully, focusing on student thinking in order to pinpoint why students are having difficulty and how to best help them grow to become better mathematicians. Having helped more than 400 students, Jan says she absolutely loves her job and is fortunate to have seen tremendous growth in her students — both during intervention instruction and in the regular classroom. Jan also works with other teachers, providing training on strategies and tools for developing number sense, allowing them to gain insights into students’ ways of thinking. Jan’s leadership and service contributed to gains of 10 percentage points on the school-wide Kentucky state test scores. Jan hopes for future funding to continue in her current position and dreams that every school could have an MIT with expertise in early mathematics and the ability to provide specialized help for students who are having difficulty and for colleagues who need support.

Sandra Bollenbecker, Adairville Elementary School in Logan County

During her six years as an MIT, Sandra has learned and used best practice and math recovery tools and strategies for helping more than 100 students develop conceptual understanding of numbers, leading to improved achievement. She has also worked with more than 60 teachers, guiding colleagues to analyze where students are successful and where they need additional assistance. For example, Sandra collaborated with the classroom teacher of a student who entered kindergarten with no awareness of or ability with numbers, but made great progress and now, as a second grader, is a peer teacher for other students struggling in the areas of problem solving and computation.

Sandra is proud of “building the problem solvers of tomorrow and developing leaders who will assist future learners.”

Sandra says she is appreciative of the opportunity to be part of the KCM community.

“It allows me to be on the cutting edge of advancements in research and resources for mathematics teaching with a professional family that is only an email or phone call away,” Sandra said. “I am very grateful to be in this season of life with the KCM, colleagues, administrators, and a district that believes in and focuses on student achievement.”

Cher Rosser, Lewisburg Elementary School in Logan County

Now serving her seventh year as an MIT, Cher has helped hundreds of primary students gain confidence and begin taking risks in the area of mathematics. Whereas many young students lack the basic skills such as counting, adding, or subtracting correctly, intervention allows them to become thinkers who make sense of numbers. During 2013/2014, nearly half of Cher’s students reached proficiency, according to Discovery Ed data.

According to Lewisburg principal Randy Marcum, “Cher’s skillful instructional techniques have led her students to become more successful.”

Principal Marcum explains that Cher exercises strong leadership as she diligently provides assistance to colleagues, impacting school wide success.

“Since Cher has served as the MIT, we have seen evidence of continual school improvement, annually meeting and/or exceeding state goals and increasing percentages of proficient and distinguished scores in mathematics,” Principal Marcum said.

Cher has a vision for statewide improvement.

“I wish that every school in Kentucky could have the resources and funding to provide a highly effective math interventionist teacher in both elementary and middle schools to reach our state’s struggling students and that more classroom teachers will have the opportunity to understand how to build solid foundational numeracy, which is essential for later learning,” Cher said.

Christie Gantt, T. C. Cherry Elementary School, Bowling Green Independent

Serving her eighth year as an MIT, Christie credits the success of her students to her ongoing Kentucky Center for Mathematics professional learning experience.

“This priceless opportunity for training and networking has evolved my mathematical thinking, allowing me to get a clearer picture of a child's mathematical development and providing me with resources that allow me to teach my students conceptually,” Christie said. “I have learned about the importance of early numeracy skills and how to better differentiate my instruction. And, I have been able to share new ideas and resources with my colleagues.”

Christie’s intervention students on average ended the year 13.8 percentile points higher than they started in the beginning of the year according to STAR Math national percentiles. These achievement gains are related to students’ enjoyment and confidence in doing math.

Belle Rush, Chandler’s Elementary School in Logan County

Belle is now in her 33rd year as a teacher and her ninth year as an MIT, as funded by the Kentucky Mathematics Achievement Fund. Although she originally accepted the position reluctantly, she now embraces the many ongoing professional learning and leadership opportunities available from the Kentucky Center for Mathematics. Belle has provided “math club” for more than 250 intervention students and has heard many pleas from other students who aspire to someday join the fun. She has worked with more than 30 teachers to help them gain new knowledge and resources for improving students’ early mathematics learning experiences.

“She ensures they are providing the best possible math education to the students,” Chandler Elementary principal Caycee Spears said. “She has even co-taught lessons recently.”

According to Belle, she has seen some radical transformations in teacher practice.

“Some of my trainees mentioned that they were going to completely revamp the way they teach math in their classrooms due to what they had learned in the sessions,” Belle said.

As Belle and her colleagues have worked hard to use new research-based math strategies, the school has moved from the state accountability ranking of “Needs Improvement” to “Proficient.”  Belle describes her participation in the KCM’s statewide professional learning community as a “privilege,” with a network populated by “old friends” who are always on call to provide expertise as needed. When she eventually retires, Belle plans to continue leading math trainings for KCM.

Linda Patten, Lakewood Elementary School in Hardin County

Linda is serving her third year as an MIT and has worked with more than 150 students who have shown gains in their ability to utilize number sense to solve math problems. Results have made her dedication to students’ mathematical understanding even more obvious through the 2013-2014 MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scores of her intervention students. For example, Patten’s kindergarten intervention students made gains on average of 25.8 RIT points from fall to spring, where only 15.4 points were expected. In addition, her first grade intervention students made RIT gains of 31.8 points where only 16.2 were expected, and her second grade intervention students made RIT gains of 24.8 points where only 13.1 were expected, almost doubling the expected RIT gain.

“Linda’s passion for teaching students who are struggling in mathematics is evident in her daily work and her attention to detail,” Lakewood Elementary School principal Shelee Clark said. “She works hard to help her students succeed.”

Not only does Linda dedicate herself to her students’ success, but Principal Clark also emphasizes the value in her willingness to share her ideas and resources with other school staff and faculty.

“All of our 45 certified staff members benefit from Linda’s expertise as she shares information from trainings at faculty meetings and in PLC meetings,” Principal Clark said. “We are fortunate to have her among our staff at Lakewood Elementary.”

Shelly Scott, Joe Harrison Carter Elementary School in Monroe County

Shelly is serving her ninth year as an MIT and has been part of the KCM community since its inception in 2006, resulting in hundreds of students gaining stronger mathematical understanding with her guidance and care.

Shelly said that over the years she has, “seen [students] become more independent in solving problems, and develop a deeper understanding of number sense. Their confidence has increased and they no longer think math is an impossible subject.”

Not only has Shelly helped a plethora of students over the past nine years, but she has also made a direct impact on her school’s culture and attitude regarding mathematical teaching. Scott said that just as she has evolved in her understanding of teaching mathematics, so too have other teachers at her school grown in their views. She has led a multitude of trainings for primary grades teachers both for her school and the district as a whole.

“My school has changed as I have over the years,” Shelly said. “I see these teachers teaching from the conceptual level moving to the more abstract. I see teachers transforming their teaching just as I have in the years I have been a member of the KCM Community.”

Jeff Blythe, Joe Harrison Carter Elementary School principal, echoes those thoughts.

“Not only does Mrs. Scott’s work with small and large group of students positively impact the entire student body while they are in her classroom, her work with teachers in developing effective mathematical teaching strategies impacts the entire student body throughout the day in their regular classrooms,” Principal Blythe said.

Shannon Miller, Eastern Elementary School in Barren County

Shannon is in her 12th year as a teacher, and her third year as an MIT. She emphasizes that being part of the KCM community has completely changed the way she sees and teaches mathematics.

“I feel like the last three years as an MIT have taught me more about kids and how they learn, and the best way to get them to think about mathematics, than all my previous years of teaching combined,” Shannon said.

Throughout her three years as an MIT, Shannon has learned that the teaching and learning of math goes far beyond numbers and procedures.

“There are so many experiences that students need early on in order to build a foundation of numeracy,” Shannon said. “Being part of the KCM community has allowed me to learn and give students those opportunities.”

Her dedication to helping students excel in their mathematical understanding is evident in her 2013-2014 MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scores as her second grade intervention students made gains on average of 17 RIT points, where only 13.1 were expected. In addition, her third grade intervention students made gains on average of 19.6 RIT points, where only 11 were expected, nearly twice the average RIT gain.

Shannon not only serves a multitude of students, she has also become an invaluable resource for more than 40 teachers at her school as she frequently collaborates with them on lessons, discusses best approaches for individual students, and supplies materials. In addition, Shannon is also leading an EERTI (Enacting Effective Response to Intervention) group at her school this year so that other teachers, “can receive some of the same beneficial training that I have had.”

“Serving as the MIT at my school has become more of a passion than a job, and I am thankful to have this opportunity,” Shannon said.

About the #RoadToNKU

The #RoadToNKU is a tour of community engagement activities throughout the Commonwealth. This trip to Bowling Green is the third of eight stops through Dec. 4.

### NKU ###

Follow NKU news on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nkuedu.