Bardstown Primary School
Teaching 13 years
Typically sees about 20 students per week
What made you decide to become an educator?
I took the road less traveled. In high school, I planned to major in education but I was also interested in journalism and drama. When I enrolled in college I was drawn to journalism initially, but my university only offered an Associate degree in journalism. At that point I decided to become a Communications major. I earned my B.A. in Communication from Indiana University Southeast in 1999. After graduating, I married a teacher. It became clear to me that I needed to reconsider education. I made my way back into education first by serving as the Parent Coordinator at Bardstown Early Childhood for two years. I then enrolled in IUS’s Transition to Teaching program and earned my teaching certificate in 2004.
What excites you most about being an MAF Mathematics Intervention Teacher?
I struggled as a math student from fourth grade through college. I was always frustrated by not “getting” math. In 2010, I began a journey of self-reflection and improvement in my math instructional practices. I was not comfortable with my level of skill and did not believe that my students were receiving the level of instruction they deserved. I enrolled in the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board’s Continuing Education Option program. This was an excellent opportunity, because it allowed me to focus specifically on improving my math instructional practices. I completed the program and received my Rank II in 2014. During that time, I attended my first KCM conference and met Mary Helen Hodges. I overheard her having a conversation about math intervention and asked her to tell me more. I received permission from my school to pursue training in AVMR. I also told them about math intervention and the MAF grant process. The problem was – there was no opportunity to apply for the grant at that time. When the grant option became available again, I asked my school system for permission to seek funds to create an MIT position in our school district. We were fortunate enough to receive a grant and I was fortunate enough to be selected to fill the position. During my journey, I have been blessed to be trained by some amazing people – Cindy Aossey (AVMR I, 2010), Linda Jewell (AVMR II, 2011), Helen Blevins (SNAP 2015), and Lisa Riggs (MRIS, 2016). Because of their dedication to improving math practices, I have been given the opportunity to break the chain of negativity I felt toward math. This is what excites me most about being an MIT. I know what it feels like to struggle as a math student. It is my mission to try to reach students who feel lost in that sea of math. I feel like my job requires me to not only reach out to students, but also teachers and parents. Although I have only been in my position for one year, I am beginning to see attitudes changing.
What differences have you seen in your students since they began receiving intervention assistance?
The best part is seeing them enjoy math. I love that moment when I get to the classroom door and they are excited to go with me. They truly see learning math in a new light. They develop self-confidence in talking about math and it spills over into their regular instruction.
What is one, favorite story or “a-ha!” moment you’ve had with one (or more) of your intervention students? Why is this your favorite?
Just seeing students realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem is awesome. To watch students trying to “one up” each other in regard to a strategy is great. To see them learn how to use new materials and to watch these students as they use those new materials to solve problems is satisfying. One of my favorite moments from last year came from my first family math event. A parent emailed me after the event that her son said that he had a great time, but we never did any math. It was funny to me, because every single event required math in order to tally a score or complete a game. He was so busy having a good time that the math just happened without a thought. That is my goal – to make math happen without unnecessary stress and struggle. I am excited about continuing my work toward that goal during year two.
What does the MAF and the Kentucky Center for Mathematics mean to you?
The Kentucky Center for Mathematics changed my life as an educator. I can directly attribute everything that has happened to me in my professional life in the past six years to their work. When I attended my first KCM conference, I was afraid that someone would figure out that I was bad at math or that I was not a “math person.” True story. I think I was afraid the “math police” would show up and kick me out. My math scars were pretty deep. What happened was the complete opposite. They surrounded me and lifted me up, they contacted me, they trained me, and they improved me. Words cannot express what it feels like to be part of this family. I would not be sitting in this position right now without the support of the KCM and without the financial support of the MAF grant.
I would like to specifically thank the people in my school district who made it possible for me to attend trainings and apply for the grant – Paul Bowling, Principal at Bardstown Elementary; Michelle Spalding, Assistant Principal at Bardstown Elementary; Michelle Ryan, Principal at Bardstown Primary; Natalie Kiser, Assistant Principal at Bardstown Primary; and Cara Blackmon, our District Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. I am blessed to work in a district that values innovative opportunities to improve instructional practices.
What advice would you give to a colleague or other educator if they had never attended a KCM professional learning experience before?
I have been attending the conferences alone for a long time. This past spring, I was given permission to take ten other teachers with me from pre-K through fifth grade. We had representation from every grade level. It was amazing. My advice would be to start out by attending a conference. Take the time to make contacts and ask lots of questions. Seek out training opportunities that will have a big impact in your classroom and ask for help as you get started. It is life-changing. I am proof of that.
My son attends Bardstown Early Childhood where the teachers are trained in Foundations for Early Mathematics (formerly, Kentucky-Erikson Early Math Collaborative). It is amazing to see what is possible when this type of math instruction happens in early childhood. I would wholeheartedly recommend this training to pre-K and kindergarten teachers. Those teachers attended that training, because the KCM passed along the information to me and I passed it along to their principal, Michelle Sharp, who saw it as a priority for her teachers.
What activities, organizations, hobbies, etc. do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love cooking and baking. Food is therapy. I have three children (Bailey, 20, attends Morehead State; Weston, 13, is in eighth grade; and Henry, 4, is in pre-K). My husband, Bryan, teaches Spanish at Bardstown High School. We eat, sleep, and breathe school, but we also enjoy going out on the pontoon and going to church.
What was your favorite pizza topping?
I love mushrooms!
What was your favorite childhood television show?
I grew up watching PBS – Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Electric Company, but I also loved CHIPs and Emergency (I still watch them.)
Got any good or favorite math jokes?
We have an ongoing repartee about racks since the math conference, but we try to keep it on the down-low. ☺