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PCCF grant funds Polk math teachers’ trip to national conference

Six Polk County mathematics teachers attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this year thanks to a Priscilla and Ellis D. Slater Excellence in Teaching Fund grant from the Polk County Community Foundation

Six Polk County mathematics teachers attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this year thanks to a Priscilla and Ellis D. Slater Excellence in Teaching Fund grant from the Polk County Community Foundation.

The conference brought together math teachers from all over the nation for four days of informational sessions designed to help improve their classroom instructional efforts.

Polk County High School teachers Jon Ezell and Caitlin Williams, Polk County Middle School teacher Dianne Holt, Polk Central teacher Julia Tackett and Tryon Elementary teachers Donna Godley and Pam Vining attended the event.

Thoughts from the teachers attending the conference included:

Jon Ezell
“In my 20 years of teaching I have attended the state math conference several times but have never had the opportunity to attend a national conference of any kind. I was blown away. This experience has help me grow as a teacher in my classes, a leader in my department/ school and lastly has reminded me of the impact that a teacher has as an agent for social change and equality.

“I attended a number of sessions that confronted the responsibility educators have in the areas of social progress and positive social change, particularly in the African-American communities. Christopher Emdin’s address on bringing joy to the math classroom as a way to increase the engagement and to heal ‘educational trauma’ of African-American students was truly thought provoking. Current NCTM president Matt Larson’s insights on the unintentional (or intentional in some cases) systems in education that prevent students from using education to move out of poverty and away from poor home lives. I was moved by the idea of teacher tracking, how saving our best teachers for our best students systematically puts disadvantaged students at further disadvantage. Lastly, Iris Carl’s address ‘Taking a Knee in Mathematics Education – Moving from Equity Discourse to Protest and Refusal’ was very eye -opening to the desperation some communities live with each day. Some people would think that what he was demanding would be unreasonable, undoable or impractical. However, I simply think it is a difference of approach. If you need six and you ask for six you will end up settling with three. I think he is asking for ten in hopes of getting six or perhaps seven. His intention here is to have all the stakeholders in this relationship between communities and schools accept the reasonability for providing no less than the highest level of effort to prevent the loss of kids from the worst situations. He sees education as the only hope for communities he comes from.”

Caitlin Williams
“This conference afforded me the opportunity to network with fellow educators in comparable educational environments to Polk County. It allowed me to establish contacts across the county, even the globe, which enables me to keep my curriculum globally competitive. Geographically isolationism can be a problem in a community such as ours. Meeting and sharing with other educators provides me with exciting new opportunities. I cannot fully express how thankful I am to have been able to attend the NCTM conference. I hope to be able to attend similar conferences in the future.”

Dianne Holt
“After being a teacher at Polk County Middle for 15 years, this is my first national conference. It was empowering to see 9,000 teachers in one location and energized to collaborate with other math professionals. There were many sessions that I attended and many more that I wish I had had time to attend. I learned valuable information, received contact information, learned of new websites and saw hands-on ways to teach concepts. The session that most excited me was a speaker that showed how she uses circuit worksheets to help her students pretest, study, review and test for understanding of math concepts. She has a website for several grade levels and curriculum that would work with our students that have to be moving and love to be challenged and like working with their peers. .

“It was a chance for me to talk with other teachers from Polk County as we walked to the convention center, ate breakfast and/or lunch together to discuss the session that we attended, how we teach concepts/vocabulary in our own classes. I enjoyed this experience so much that we are wondering and thinking how we can go again next year to the national math conference.”

Donna Godley
“The sessions I attended taught me to develop mathematical learning tasks with multiple entry points that will engage all learners and build their mathematical reasoning. I learned the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how to organize my classroom and instruction time as well how to write my own effective tasks for whatever concepts I am teaching. I was able to collaborate with teachers from across the nation and hear inspiring speakers who are leaders in the field of mathematics education.

“I also learned of many great resources, some of which I have already purchased and put to use with my students. Going to this convention gave me a renewed enthusiasm for my job. Another teacher who went on the trip and I will be meeting this summer to collaborate on how to implement many of the things we learned into our instruction for next year. I appreciate your vision in seeing the value of equipping teachers in Polk County to have a greater impact on student learning.”

Julia Tackett
“Professional development is one of the most important aspects of being a teacher. Part of our job is to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created. With the continued help of conferences, such as the NCTM National Conference, it helps me as an educator to keep up to date with the latest information and research in the education world. It also helps to re-spark my passion as a teacher; it is almost like self-care for an educator. As a teacher, we focus on our students being 21st century learners and teaching our students that we are all lifelong learners. My students are then able to see the benefits of these conferences and promotes their love of learning as well. While attending the conference, I was able to network with educators (teachers, coaches, administrators, trainers, professors) from all over and have meaningful discussions about best math practices. I was also able to have time to talk with my local colleagues about what they see in their classrooms, from elementary to high school. The information I gained is invaluable and helps the growth of Polk County Schools.”

Pam Vining
“My trip to the NCTM conference opened my eyes in several ways. I learned that I was teaching some math concepts incorrectly, so I promptly changed my teaching method concerning several mathematical concepts. While at the conference, I met teachers throughout the United States who shared their ideas about mathematics teaching. This helped to enhance my lesson plans allowing my students to dig deeper into math. Just seeing all the resources available inspired me to improve my lessons and gave me many ideas about teaching. Going to an event like the NCTM conference helped me learn cutting edge techniques in the teaching of mathematics.”

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