Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.A. Mathematics; M.Ed in Math Education
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
O'Donnell Middle School, Stoughton, MA, 8th grade mathematics and Algebra
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I entered Stonehill College with a love and passion for math. I wanted to become a math teacher to share the importance, significance, and beauty of the subject with students. Throughout high school, I found myself supporting frustrated classmates in their math classes. I could relate to this frustration because when I was in elementary school, I struggled with reading. It wasn’t until my reading teacher, Ms. Duffy, helped me to learn strategies to succeed that ultimately helped me to gain confidence in school. I always enjoyed mathematics and was aware that this was a subject a lot of students were apprehensive about. When I entered Stonehill College, I wanted to become the “Ms. Duffy” of mathematics for my future students.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
This is my fifth year as a grade eight mathematics teacher at the O’Donnell Middle School (OMS) in Stoughton, MA. I teach in a diverse community where students’ have a range of mathematical achievement levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. I am a proud remember of the school community, where our focus is on giving students an enjoyable and engaging experience. Lately, our efforts have moved to social emotional learning and supporting all students, especially those who have experienced trauma. One approach that teachers are using is Responsive Classroom, a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline, developed by the Center for Responsive Schools.
I have always been passionate about showing students the importance and significance of mathematics and how it can relate to their backgrounds and futures, no matter how different they may be. I want to help them make those connections and don’t want them to fear math. With all the opportunities in the STEM fields today, I want students to learn how mathematics can open doors (beyond the classroom) and help them achieve any goal they set for themselves.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
The Noyce Program was a unique experience that I was fortunate to be a part of at Stonehill College. As a Scholar, I was able to learn about best practices through discussions with my cohort and my content and pedagogy mentors (members of the Noyce Project Team). These discussions were driven by readings that were not always in our coursework, and activities that sadly we were not always experiencing in our placements. We were studying how to be effective math teachers for today’s generation. This included teaching math in a way that we were not taught ourselves and was not practiced by many other teachers. One major idea that the Noyce program taught me is this: an effective math classroom is one where the students should be doing more math than the teacher. The Noyce Program prepared me to create a student-centered environment. While at Stonehill, I also participated in a summer-long Noyce Undergraduate Research Experience. I was the student lead for a statistical project on analyzing volatility in students’ growth estimates based on the Colorado Growth Model (CGM)–also known as the student growth percentile model, where students’ test scores are compared to their previous test scores to measure personal growth, along with also comparing their results to peers. We created a sample size of test scores and analyzed what students’ growth percentiles were estimated to be with CGM. One main conclusion of this statistical simulation was the importance of students’ growth percentile, rather than just their raw score on a standardized test for a specific year. I still refer to this research when analyzing my own students’ data and results from the MCAS standardized test (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System Test).
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
My Noyce cohort had regular discussions about culturally responsive teaching; these discussions became more meaningful once I was in my own classroom. These opportunities for discussion and to remain connected with cohort members and the Noyce team continued after graduation. I am fortunate to be able to participate in the Noyce Program Community of Practice at Stonehill College as a Noyce Scholar Graduate and then take “best practices” back to my own classroom. The benefits of being a Noyce Scholar Graduate include remaining connected with the Stonehill College education and mathematic professors as a source for professional development. Additionally, connections with my cohort of Noyce Scholars and other graduates has created a community of practice for resources and support in mathematics classrooms.
I try to include a variety of 3-Act Math activities and low-floor high-ceiling problems when teaching in a cross-cultural setting. In 3-Act Math, students are challenged to find a solution to a problem through creativity and collaboration. The first act is designed to build student interest, the second act gives more information about the problem, and the third act typically reveals one type of solution. Students can use multiple approaches to problem solving. Low-floor high-ceiling problems also allow multiple solution methods, which promote a positive mathematical mindset because there is no right or wrong approach on how to solve a problem. When there are multiple solution methods, students use their strengths to solve a problem. In Dots Talks, for example, students are given a pattern of dots changing in a sequence and determine how many dots are in a specific case. Some visual learners will draw a picture to determine this, while the algebraic thinkers will write an equation. Multiple solution methods are used to arrive at the same conclusion. I like using 3-Act Math and low-floor high-ceiling problems because no matter what the students’ backgrounds or prior achievement levels are, they can participate in some way. I also use various differentiation strategies to help all students learn and stay engaged in math: stations, scavenger hunts, jigsaws, videos, group work, flexible seating.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
The strong content knowledge I gained at Stonehill College allows me to process problems in different ways. I can foresee students’ misconceptions and produce different representations to break down those misconceptions. My content knowledge in math also helps my pedagogy when I am creating and facilitating lessons; it impacts the types of questions I will ask students. It also helps me construct low-floor high-ceiling problems because I can create different solution methods. A student misconception I am constantly trying to break is that the answer is the only important thing. I want my students to understand that the process is more important and mathematical reasoning is what will eventually get you to a solution.
In addition to teaching, are you exploring new areas in content, teaching strategies, leadership, etc. If so, what areas and did the Noyce experience play a role?
I am a building mentor at O’Donnell Middle School, supporting new teachers. We have collaborative meetings to reflect on how things are going, and I share some of my ideas for an effective and engaging classroom. This year, I also started co-teaching the NUMB3R’S Project, a one credit course in the Education Studies Department at Stonehill with Dr. Karen Anderson (Noyce grant PI). Co-teaching allows me to share pedagogy and teaching strategies with pre-service teachers, many that I learned through the Noyce program. Lastly, during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 virus, I am participating in several webinars, mostly through NCTM 100 Days of Professional Learning, and sharing these ideas with my math colleagues and special education co-teacher. I am supporting my mentees and math colleagues on strategies to keep students engaged during this time of remote learning. We are continuously collaborating at our school on how to adapt and support students.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
In spring 2019, I earned my M.Ed in Mathematics Education from Lesley University. I am a board member of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts; my current position is co-chair of the annual spring conference. The Noyce grant allowed me to attend the NCTM meeting in New Orleans in 2014 and in Boston in 2015 as a pre-service teacher. Attending these national conferences showed me how valuable teacher collaboration is and how much we can learn from each other. This inspired me to get involved with my state affiliate of NCTM.
As a member of the Noyce book club at Stonehill College, I wanted to include mention of two of my favorite books: Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching and an inspiration for discussions on culturally responsive teaching: Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood . . . and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education.