NKU Honors 13 Inspiring Teachers with Trailblazer Awards in Lexington

For immediate release…
Wednesday – Dec. 3, 2014

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Thirteen Kentucky teachers will receive the Northern Kentucky University Trailblazer Award for Mathematics Education during a presentation by President Mearns Dec. 4 at the Embassy Suites Lexington.

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 Embassy Suites at 5:30 p.m. as part of the 2014 #RoadToNKU Commonwealth Tour. The university will also recognize the winners of the Trailblazer Award for Leadership in Library Informatics.

“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

Toni Newton, Estill Springs Elementary, Estill County Schools

Toni is in her third year serving as a mathematics intervention teacher trained and supported by the Kentucky Center for Mathematics

“I feel part of something great in education,” Toni said. “Being a part of KCM has changed my life and teaching.” 

Toni has directly helped more than 150 students and indirectly helped thousands through her work with more than 100 other teachers. Her students, on average, have made greater gains than expected, which is evidence of their growth in numeracy and confidence. Toni has helped other teachers, sharing expertise at the KCM statewide conference and providing specific strategies at her school. She has seen colleagues become more confident through provision of advice or modeling of research-based tools for identifying and addressing individual student need. Toni says she has satisfaction knowing she is making a difference — the reason she dedicated her life to teaching. Estill Springs Principal Jessica Mullins says

 “I appreciate the communication that the math intervention teacher has with all staff and families,” Estill Springs Principal Jessica Mullins said. “I also appreciate that the math intervention teacher is willing to train our staff on the math knowledge and training she has received.  She makes our school stronger!”

Toni’s dream is that her school may continue to receive the Kentucky Mathematics Achievement Fund grant so she can continue helping students and teachers.

Bethany Neel, Cane Ridge Elementary, Bourbon County Schools

Bethany is serving her seventh year as a mathematics intervention teacher.

“In working with the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, my understanding about the way students (and teachers) think about math has been transformed,” Bethany said. “I can watch a student solve a problem, and know much about how she is conceptualizing the math, where she is on the journey to numeracy understanding, as well as what kinds of experiences will help move her forward toward more complex understandings.  The professional learning goes far beyond attending trainings. Having a community of colleagues who are knowledgeable, available, and interested in talking about teaching and learning math has been an amazing advantage. I feel so grateful to be a part of this community.”

Bethany’s work has impacted the students she serves directly and the school. Her intervention students, on average, gained more than 11 percentile points last year, with some students increasing their national percentile rank by up to 59 percentile points. Bethany has witnessed transformed student attitudes about mathematics.

“The biggest change I see in my students is the interest and enthusiasm they gain through their work in math intervention,” Bethany said. “They go from dreading math to lighting up when they see me coming to pick them up, complaining when we have to miss a session, and hungering for challenge.” 

Through her contributions, the school has seen a total increase of 8.7 percentage points on the state mathematics test since 2011.

Lisa Riggs, Campbellsville Elementary, Campbellsville Independent Schools

Lisa is serving her eighth year as an MIT after initially earning official designation as a math recovery specialist through the Kentucky Center for Mathematics.

“I will never teach in the same way again,” Lisa said. “I am now able to assess students to find out where they are in their mathematical thinking and how to move them to the next level.”

Lisa’s students exhibit impressive mathematical reasoning as they apply advanced strategies for mental computation. During the 2013-2014 school year her, first- and second-grade intervention students on average made gains exceeding the expected growth by 49 percent or more. For several years, Lisa has led more than 20 colleagues to learn more about how to assess and develop deep foundational fluency and she has guided them to implement research-based tools and strategies. Lisa’s leadership efforts contribute to growing school-wide success on the state test with the percent of proficient and distinguished students exceeding the target in spring 2014.

“The culture surrounding the teaching of mathematics is becoming one of teachers as facilitators and kid watchers,” Lisa said.

As a lifelong learner and teacher scholar, Lisa wishes to continue growing professionally and would love to continue in her current position with support from the Kentucky Mathematics Achievement Fund.

Angie Miller, Sand Gap Elementary, Jackson County Schools

Now serving her ninth year as an MIT, Angie has provided highly effective mathematics intervention students for hundreds of students as she applied research-based strategies to guide sense making through challenging learning experiences leading to success.

Her students learn to think deeply about numbers and they gain basic skills with conceptual understanding that allows them to apply their knowledge in any situation. After only 12 percent of Angie’s students were proficient or distinguished at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, more than 56 percent were achieving at the end of that school year. Angie also works hard to help other teachers continue the shift to providing high-impact, meaningful mathematical tasks that allow their students to make sense of and enjoy mathematics.

Stephanie Herndon, Clear Creek Elementary, Shelby County Schools

Stephanie is experiencing her first year as a mathematics intervention teacher after 17 years in the classroom.

“I love being part of the math intervention world,” Stephanie said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed all the resources and support I have gotten from the KCM Community. It has really changed my view on teaching math to my students. I knew that having a strong foundation in number sense was important, but now I realize it is not only important but a major necessity.”

Stephanie has long been a mathematics leader at the school, district, and state level, acquiring tools to help other teachers.

“Moving into this position has given me the opportunity to focus strictly on math — and I love that,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie shares strategies with colleagues working to build basic foundations of number sense. She dreams to continue working with students, teachers and administrators to lead the school and district in continually improving mathematics achievement to the highest level possible.

Nicole Weyman, Glenn O. Swing Elementary and John G Carlisle Elementary, Covington Independent Schools

Nicole, now serving her third year as a mathematics intervention teacher, has helped more than 180 students gain important foundational knowledge so they are better situated for success with grade-level mathematics.

“As an MIT, I have grown professionally and now have a better understanding of early numeracy,” Nicole said. “I have seen dramatic improvements in students’ number sense.”

According to Glenn O. Swing Elementary Principal Scott Alter, students have “gained a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and have developed confidence through their academic success in math, becoming more willing to take risks and share their learning with peers.”

Nicole has also worked with 13 other teachers to help them better understand how to develop numeracy. Alter credits Nicole for contributing to the improved practice of colleagues.

“They have learned and refined strategies for working with all student populations in order to ensure success for all students,” Alter said.

Nicole’s students have shown improved test scores at both schools and school-wide achievement has increased.

Terry Fisher, James Lane Allen Elementary, Fayette County Schools

Terry is serving her ninth year as an MIT and was a pioneer (charter) member of the KCM community. She now has a deeper understanding of how students think mathematically.

“Being a part of the KCM community has been a life changing experience for me and has guided me to a way of teaching math that I had never experienced before,” Terry said.

She has worked with more than 300 students, helping them to build strong numeracy foundations so they are better prepared to succeed with learning mathematics. She helps students develop capabilities and confidence with thinking about quantity and using advanced mental strategies to efficiently find correct answers. As her students have come to love math, they have made astonishing progress during the 2013-2014 school year with greater gains than expected, as shown by the averages of each grade level. Kindergarten was 70.25 percent higher than expected, first grade was 32 percent higher than expected, second grade was 16.4 percent higher than expected, and third grade was 29.5 percent higher than expected.

Terry says her MIT journey has allowed her to overcome shyness and now feels she is able to make a difference helping other teachers for school wide success.

“Because of all the help and involvement of KCM, I am now so much more comfortable in presenting best practices to colleagues who embrace and implement the new methods,” Terry said.

Her dream is to continue promoting best practices for teaching mathematics throughout the school in order to reach as many students as possible.

Chrystal Rowland, Robert B. Turner, Anderson County Schools

Chrystal is serving her eighth year as an MIT and has helped more than 300 intervention students and she has revolutionized the way mathematics is taught in her school.

“My mission has always been to help kids be successful and ENJOY math,” Chrystal said. “However, having a mission and knowing how to accomplish it are very different things. Through the Mathematics Achievement Fund grant and the support of the KCM, I had more access to mathematics research and training in my first year as MIT than I had in all of my six years of teaching combined. I am now empowered to fulfill my mission, able to create cutting edge lessons that my students enjoy that are going to move them forward.  I see sparks of understanding each day and an excitement for learning.”

The mother of a new student to the school suspected her daughter was learning disabled as she was previously assigned to attend math class with younger students. After receiving intervention at Turner Elementary, this student excelled and even scored distinguished on the state test.

Chrystal has worked with countless teachers, building a community of professionals who learn from one another, share ideas, and problem-solve together.

“In the past, teachers were locked away on their own islands with little training and may have been too embarrassed to reach out for help,” Chrystal said. “I have worked through the trenches with daily collaboration, modeling instructional strategies like math talks and open number lines, helping teachers identify the pitfalls in mathematics. Gone are the days of struggling alone. We succeed together or we fail together.”

Turner principal Wayne Reese praised Chrystal for driving school-wide improvements.

“It is great to have a credible resource in the building that staff can go to for math strategies and resources,” Reese said. “We look at our math specialist like a specialist in the medical field. If a student has a specific math issue, this is where we go to get the remedy. Mrs. Rowland assists all staff and students who are in need of math assistance. Our KPREP [state] math scores are a result of the great relationship between her and our math teachers. We finished in the top 7 percent of schools in math. We are a center-based school and Mrs. Rowland was most instrumental in facilitating this change in each of our classrooms. We appreciate her devotion to our students and staff and helping make Robert B. Turner Elementary a Kentucky School of Distinction.”

Becky Reister, Kirksville Elementary, Madison County Schools

Becky is now serving her seventh year as a mathematics intervention teacher in Madison County, most recently working at Kirksville Elementary.

“Mathematics is a strength at Kirksville,” principal Starla Browne said.

Becky served as a dynamic teacher leader in Madison County for six years, working with students and helping to train nearly all the elementary grades teachers in using math recovery tools and strategies for developing numeracy and serving as a representative for the Kentucky Department of Education Mathematics Leadership Network. For two years, Becky served as a KCM regional coordinator, providing exemplary statewide leadership for teachers in several regions. With other regional coordinators, Becky helped to design and implement a new KCM course for intermediate grades teachers called MaRTI Classic (Mathematics Response to Intervention) and she led a cohort of KCM’s most intensive program MaRTI Plus, funded by the Mathematics Science Partnership grant program.

“Students at Kirksville now think about math,” Browne said. “It is no longer a process and steps to be taken. We are growing students to be life-long learners who become successful beyond the classroom. They are finding that there are many different paths to take to get to an answer and that there is no one right way to get there.

“The way teachers think about math has become more conceptual and this is reflective in their teaching. The work the MITs have done not only in our school, but the county has blazed a path for teachers who directly impact our students learning and opportunities to learn. Through AVMR formative assessments, teachers are more aware of gaps students have, what creates those gaps, and who to bridge them.”

Becky continues to share her experience, passion, and expertise at the annual KCM Conference and throughout the year as she makes valuable contributions to the statewide professional learning community.

Cindy Gross, Waco Elementary, Madison County Schools

Cindy is now in her 26th year of teaching and her eighth year serving as an MIT, trained and supported by the Kentucky Center for Mathematics. She has worked with more than 200 intervention students and says being an MIT has changed the way she thinks about how students learn math.

“I can now look at the way students solve and think about problems and make instructional decisions to advance their development of conceptual understanding and essential foundational skills,” Cindy said.

Most recently, Cindy has implemented “Number Talks,” facilitating growth in students’ thinking and communication about math.

“Students have become more conceptual learners and can share their thinking verbally and are working on the written expression through problem solving,” Waco Elementary principal Vanessa Worley said.

Cindy’s students made greater gains than expected in 2013-2014.

With the Madison County leadership team, Cindy and other MITs have trained more than 200 teachers throughout the county. In fact, more than 90 percent of all elementary teachers in Madison County have been trained in using math recovery tools and strategies for diagnosing and addressing student need. Prior to this training, classroom instruction was more traditional with no rigorous thinking or explicit connections between mathematical ideas. After the training, teachers are better able to use research-based practices and formative assessment as they have become facilitators of interesting, engaging mathematics and deep learning.

“[Teachers] are able to pinpoint student needs and teach to the students, not the lesson,” Worley  said.

Cindy has a dream for Kentucky.

“I would love to see all teachers be able to have the same trainings and opportunities that I have been blessed to be a part of in the past eight years,” Cindy said. “Imagine the impact that our state would see on student learning and success.”

Liz Jones, Silver Creek Elementary and Kingston Elementary, Madison County Schools

Liz is serving her second year as an MIT and member of the KCM community where she has helped students become more successful in mathematics as evidenced by 74.3 percent higher gains than expected. This success also equates to an average student increase of 24 percentile points.

She says she finds her role “challenging and exciting,” and designs instruction based on diagnostic interviews that allow her to pinpoint student progress within the research-based Math Recovery Learning Framework in Number. Tasks are then selected in order to advance students to the next level with a goal of building strong foundations in conceptual understanding and skill with number. As students acquire number sense and quantitative reasoning, they are better positioned to succeed with grade-level mathematics.

Liz is also generous with colleagues as she shares new ways of thinking and new methods for delivering individualized instruction. Since spring 2012, both schools she serves have seen an increase of more than 10 percent additional percentage points in the number of students scoring proficient or distinguished on the state test.

“A dream I have is for all teachers to understand that for students to be successful, we must meet them where they are in their understanding of math concepts,” Liz said. “If we don’t help students understand and grow from their levels, students will not develop into the confident, successful problem-solvers they deserve to become.”

Lucy Anderson, Shannon Johnson Elementary, Madison County Schools

After 16 years of primary grades classroom teaching, Lucy became a mathematics intervention teacher and is now in her sixth year as a member of the Kentucky Center for Mathematics community. She has helped hundreds of students, including those she taught directly and those supported indirectly through collaboration and support of classroom teachers.

“I knew that many of my students were struggling to grasp basic concepts and many didn’t really understand what they were doing and why,” Lucy said. “I now have the ability to make sure students understand and are successful with rigorous mathematics.”

As a member of the elite team of Madison County Add+Vantage Math Recovery Champions, Lucy has provided formal training for teachers at her school and beyond to help them develop foundational fluency, resulting in systemic changes benefitting students.

“Through ongoing support from a school-based MIT and experiences such as the annual KCM Conference, classroom teachers have a deeper understanding of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Mathematics and intervention strategies in order to reach all students,” Lucy said.

Shannon Johnson Principal Che Haselwood says their school community is grateful for “her skill and tireless leadership in helping students, parents, and teachers understand and apply new strategies for developing a strong sense of numeracy; hence making math both accessible and fun for students and teachers alike.”

Kelly Livers, White Hall Elementary and Daniel Boone Elementary, Madison County Schools

Kelly is now serving her ninth year as an MIT and has helped more than 200 students.

“Being a part of the KCM community of highly-motivated change-agents has completely changed my career,” Kelly said. “I have had the opportunity to experience top notch professional development and support unparalleled in elementary mathematics education.”

Kelly has witnessed transformations in her students.

“In the beginning they were quiet and anxious,” Kelly said. “By the end they were engaged, thoughtful, expressive, and confident.”

Evidence confirms the improvements in student achievement. During the 2013-2104 school, year Kelly’s first-grade students achieved 21.7 percent greater gains than expected and her second-grade students achieved 43.12 percent greater gains.

Additionally, Kelly and other MITs from Madison County have formally trained more than 200 teachers in Add+Vantage Math Recovery so they, too, have the tools and knowledge to understand and advance students’ abilities with number and operations.

“The teachers are willing and eager to learn and try new things,” Kelly said. “And once they try something new, they are so happy to tell me the good results.”

She has witnessed transformations in classroom practice where teachers are responsive to student needs and better able to facilitate conceptual understanding. Kelly’s dream is “for all students to be exposed to thoughtful, engaging, responsive teaching and develop a growing love for mathematics.”

About the #RoadToNKU

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

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

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