NKU Honors Inspiring Teachers with Trailblazer Awards in Paducah

For immediate release…
Tuesday – Oct. 28, 2014

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Six Kentucky teachers will receive the Northern Kentucky University Trailblazer Award for Mathematics Education during a presentation by President Mearns Oct. 30 at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center in Paducah.

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 Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center 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

Lynn Hambrick and Valeria Bodell, Carlisle County Elementary

Lynn and Valeria work together as mathematics intervention teachers and have helped hundreds of students since 2006. Lynn says she has been radically transformed through her school’s participation in the state’s Mathematics Achievement Fund program

“I am a different teacher than I was before being given the opportunity to become a math intervention teacher trained by KCM professional development experiences,” Lynn said. “Whereas I did not understand how to teach math, despite 34 years of teaching experience, I now have multiple ways of guiding students to make sense of numbers so they have the foundation to build themselves into strong mathematicians.”

Valeria has been similarly transformed.

“I used to be one of those teachers who taught rules and procedures for math,” Valeria said. “Every student in the class was basically taught the same lesson with nothing different to help them understand. Since being trained to use appropriate assessments and materials, I am thrilled to now know how to really help students at their current level of understanding.”

They have also worked with every teacher in their school's primary program — collaborating, modeling teaching strategies, sharing resources, and leading professional development workshops. They have found teachers are hungry for tools to help students grasp concepts and are especially appreciative of resources shared from the Kentucky Center for Mathematics Kentucky Numeracy Project intervention guide. Their efforts have contributed to a 16.6-point increase in the school’s percentage of students scoring proficient and distinguished on the state mathematics test between 2012 and 2014. The students they serve directly ended the 2012-13 school year more than 33 percentile points higher, on average, than at the beginning of the year, as measured by the Measures of Academic Progress. Both hope that all teachers may learn how to best diagnose student need and develop numeracy, starting with their college years.

Phyllis Johnson, North Livingston Elementary in Livingston County

Phyllis “never liked math when I was in school or felt comfortable teaching math,” she said.

“Since becoming a part of the KCM Community, I now love math and teaching. I now have games and materials to help students understand quantity. It is so much fun when my students are excited about coming to my class and truly understand what numbers mean.”

Some intervention students even become leaders in their regular math class and are able to explain concepts to their peers. Standardized test scores confirm that her intervention students are making greater gains than expected. Phyllis has influenced other teachers to start using manipulatives so students understand what is happening with number stories. Through teamwork, their school has realized an increase of 20.6 points in the percentage of students scoring proficient or distinguished on the 2013-2014 state test, compared with the previous year. She appreciates having a statewide professional learning community available whenever needed.

“It’s like having your own Google network,” Phyllis said. “You type in a question to the community and you get all kinds of feedback.”

Phyllis dreams that all primary grades classrooms will eventually provide for students learning centers for mathematics with rich, hands-on, sense-making activities, in the same way reading is frequently taught now.

Wendie Edmonds, South Livingston Elementary in Livingston County

Wendie has worked with hundreds of students since 2008, helping them to become more confident and competent with mathematics. As she has learned and implemented research-based teaching strategies, her students have made astonishing gains. For example, during the 2013-2014 school year, Wendie’s intervention students, on average, finished the year more than 20 percentile points higher than when they started. Wendie’s exemplary leadership has influenced other teachers to acquire new methods for helping students become successful with mathematics, resulting in ongoing increases in the school’s percentage of proficient and distinguished students.

Regina Harrison, Lyon County Elementary

Regina has served more than 200 students during her five years as a mathematics intervention teacher. She says she has been transformed since becoming involved in the Kentucky Center for Mathematics Community after previously teaching middle grades mathematics for six years.

“KCM has given me so many opportunities to learn: how students learn, the best practices for moving them forward, chances to talk with other math people and share ideas, occasions to learn from math experts,” Regina said. “Without KCM, I would not be as well-versed in teaching math as I am and I know for certain my students are better off because of my opportunities through KCM.”

Regina’s students have, on average, achieved higher growth rates than expected and Regina enjoys seeing her students grow in confidence as they come to feel capable.

“One of the biggest changes I see in my students is that they come into my groups thinking they just can’t ‘do’ math and find out that they can,” Regina said. “Some even become outspoken leaders in regular math class.”

Regina has helped colleagues, and many have said they have learned from her strategies and experiences, and that they have seen students thrive when given tools and tasks that challenge and support their thinking. The time allotted for mathematics (the greatest predictor of later success) is now equal to the time for reading.

Regina dreams that all schools could have a highly trained mathematics intervention teacher and that more teachers could receive funding to attend the annual KCM Conference and participate in the statewide professional learning community.

“Attending the conference is so beneficial,” Regina said. “Teachers need to gather to exchange ideas and have thoughtful math discussions.”

Beth Wood, Murray Elementary School, Murray Independent Schools

Beth has served as a mathematics intervention teacher for four years in addition to teaching seven years before that. She claims that her professional learning as an MIT has changed her attitudes and abilities for teaching mathematics.

“The training KCM has provided me has changed my entire outlook on how to teach math,” Beth said. “The research behind the instruction and hands-on strategies are invaluable. I am embarrassed to admit I was one of those teachers who thought they were very successful because my students could memorize facts and remember steps to solve problems.  Looking back, I can now see that I was teaching them to be robots and not independent thinkers and problem solvers, unlike what KCM has taught me.”

Beth wakes up every day excited to go teach. 

“It has made me a leader and a much better educator than I ever thought I could be.”  Beth said. “I had one little boy tell me that coming to my class was the best part of his day.  When I asked him why, he said, ‘because I can do stuff in here all by myself and I feel smart.’” 

Beth has helped more than 30 teachers, challenging and supporting them to facilitate learning through questioning and student-centered activities for conceptual fluency, leading students to think and solve problems as they enjoy challenging and interesting mathematics.

Her leadership efforts and teamwork have contributed to improved student learning. According to the 2013-2014 Kentucky state test scores, third graders at her school scored first in the state, and Murray Elementary gained 15.4 points in the percentage of its students reaching proficient or distinguished during the 2013-2014 school year.

“Beth Wood is a valuable asset to our school!” Murray Elementary principal Denise Whitaker said. “She has modeled and encouraged teachers to use the KCM strategies. Students’ skills and confidence have reached high levels due to Beth’s work and efforts. They love working with her! She is a very positive advocate for number sense and helping students master problem-solving techniques to strengthen their abilities. Her dedication is fostering excellence in our math achievements!”

Beth wishes elementary education majors would all complete a course for developing early numeracy and she dreams that she may continue serving as an MIT, helping students and teachers in her region for many years to come.

About the #RoadToNKU

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

Find out more about the KCM at http://www.kentuckymathematics.org/.

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