NKU Honors Inspiring Teachers with Trailblazer Awards in Owensboro

For immediate release…
Monday – Oct. 27, 2014

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Five Kentucky teachers will receive the Northern Kentucky University Trailblazer Award for Mathematics Education during a presentation by President Mearns Oct. 28 at the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown in Owensboro, 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 Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown 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

Rachel Ray, South Heights Elementary in Henderson County

Now in her ninth year serving as the school’s mathematics intervention teacher, Rachel’s ongoing hard work with students and colleagues continues to contribute to improvements in learning, most recently evidenced as a 16.2 point increase in the percentage of students who are proficient or distinguished, leaving only less than 5 percent of the students who earned the lowest category of novice on the 2012/2013 Kentucky state test for mathematics.

Jennifer Olssen, Sutton Elementary

Across three years, Jennifer’s work has had a profound impact on more than 150 students who, through individualized, enjoyable learning experiences, are transformed as they become more successful in mathematics.

“I love when a kid tells me that they used to hate math and now they love it because it makes sense to them,” Jennifer said.

Sutton Principal Danna Johnson claims that having a mathematics intervention teacher has allowed the school philosophy of math instruction to evolve.

“We realize the importance of teaching numeracy and making sure students understand numeracy,” Principal Johnson said.

The Mathematics Achievement Fund Program, funded by the Kentucky Department of Education and supported by the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, develops the school-based mathematics intervention teacher expertise for teaching students in need of additional help and for service leadership benefitting teachers in planning differentiated mathematics instructional activities. Jennifer has helped more than 30 teachers.

“My teachers have become so excited about teaching math because they see that the trainings we’ve provided for them truly make an impact on overall learning,” Jennifer said.

The impact on learning is visible as Sutton Elementary is a Kentucky distinguished school, based on the 2012-13 state test scores.

“I dream that each grade level in our building would have their own math intervention teacher to assist with designing meaningful lessons on multiple levels of ability, to provide immediate services when students are struggling, and to model lessons for teachers,” Jennifer said.

Stephanie Horn, Foust Elementary, Owensboro Independent Schools

Stephanie is now in her fifth year serving as a mathematics intervention teacher and she says she loves what she does, having impacted over 150 students directly and close to 1,000 students indirectly in working with other teachers.

“I now understand the developmental progression associated with mathematical thinking,” Stephanie said. “I can identify where a student is in his/her thinking and develop the right instruction to advance their learning.

“I dream that all students will grow to become lifelong thinkers and problem-solvers.”

Stephanie has led 40 other teachers to gain insights into students’ mathematics understanding and what it takes to establish foundational numeracy.

“Stephanie has transformed from an intervention service provider to a true instructional leader in our school as a result of the ongoing professional learning made possible by the Mathematics Achievement Fund grant,” Foust Elementary principal Janie Moseley said. “In addition to her service directly to students, Stephanie regularly models best practice instruction in classrooms, assesses students and provides responsive guidance for administration and teachers, conducts professional learning sessions and book studies for staff members, mentors new teachers, and works as part of the math curriculum team to design curriculum maps and assessments.”

Through her contributions and teamwork, the school has seen an increase in the percentage of students who are proficient or distinguished as measured by the 2012-13 Kentucky state test.

Diane Meserve, Estes Elementary, Owensboro Independent Schools

During her four years in this position, Diane has helped more than 200 students and collaborated with and provided professional learning experiences for numerous teachers at her school, district, and region.  Before serving as the mathematics intervention teacher and entering the Kentucky Center for Mathematics intensive training program, she taught second grade for eight years. She now sees how math should be taught and dreams that ALL classroom teachers could be trained in Math Recovery through KCM.

Diane’s second- and third-grade intervention students, on average, ended the school year more than 10 percentile points higher than in the beginning of the year. Estes Elementary Principal Shari Flagg explained that Diane’s work has impacted every teacher at their school to better develop student understanding of numbers and is evidenced by continually improving test scores.

Vicki Shelton, Cravens Elementary, Owensboro Independent Schools

Vicki exemplifies teacher leadership, making a difference with her intervention students and with other teachers. Now serving her ninth year as a Mathematics Intervention Teacher, Vicki has helped hundreds of students become successful and confident learners. Through training and ongoing support provided by the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, Vicki completed rigorous requirements to develop expertise for diagnosing student needs and designing appropriate learning experiences to advance student understanding and skill. Her students, on average, made greater gains than expected. Vicki is also in her third year leading other teachers in her region in a KCM course for developing numeracy. As an administrator at a nearby school witnessed one of Vicki’s trainees implementing new strategies with third graders, she had a renewed vision for better ways of supporting rigorous student thinking in all classrooms. Vicky has also shared her passion and expertise as she presented at several state conferences and she has provided consultation for statewide initiatives.

About the #RoadToNKU

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

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