Meet TI Teacher of the Month: Katie England
We’re celebrating teachers, like you, who make a difference in the classroom. This month, join us in getting to know Katie England, a teacher who’s on a mission to change students' minds about math.Fast Facts About Katie:
- TEACHES WHAT: High School Mathematics Content Specialist
- TEACHES WHERE: Washington County Public Schools in Maryland
- TEACHING FOR HOW LONG: 19 years
Katie in her own words:
Why did you become a teacher?
I think it was an ingrained trait in me. I had other family members that were teachers, so it always felt natural to me to be a leader, a questioner and a teacher toward others — it’s all a part of my personality. I also had some great middle school teachers that really inspired me, because they were engaging, kind and always had a positive demeanor. I still remember them and strive to be just like them. I’ve always wanted to teach math, too, because I’ve always loved math.
“In fact, mistakes are better than OK, they’re wonderful and we need them. If my students are making mistakes, then theyre learning, and that’s my goal.”Katie England, TI Teacher of the Month
What advice would you give to your first-year teaching self?
It’s important to know there's more than one way to do things. It’s not just about showing kids how to do one problem but about making sure that they understand the mathematics behind each problem. As a teacher, it’s important to show kids this concept in many different ways. We need to look at problems visually, concretely and abstractly. We have to teach all kids —those who are visual learners, those who like numbers and those who like graphs. It’s important to have students understand that it’s not about simply getting the answer but about understanding the thinking process and math behind each problem.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love getting kids excited about math. However, I have a large population of students that have had so many difficulties. Whether it’s students who have simply been told that they “can’t,” students who have missed previous math classes, or students who are immigrants with language barriers, they all need to receive equal attention. Because of this, I’ve really concentrated on shifting their math mindsets. I love when I can finally see that shift; it goes from them yelling “I can’t do this” or “this is so frustrating,” to weeks later, when they’re the ones explaining to the students around them about how their math is right. I love to watch that change in mindset. If all I accomplish this year is changing these kids’ minds about math, then I’ll feel on top of the world.
What TI technology do you use in the classroom, and how do you use it?
There are times that I use TI-Nspire CX activities to help my classes understand concepts more deeply. Other times, we use it to support what we’re learning about functions, allowing students to physically graph and visualize how the functions work. We also sign into the Navigator System every day, regardless of whether we have an assessment or not. The Navigator lets me use the screen capture function to see if students are graphing correctly. I can also see if they understand the basic concept of the day and gather their feedback. One of my favorite things is giving students an open-ended question, then asking them to work together in order to create a linear function. Using the Navigator tool allows the students to check the answer visually, while allowing me to determine who hasn’t graphed the function and what I can do to help them.
How do you help your students learn difficult concepts?
First, I make sure they know why we’re doing a problem. For instance, if we’re getting ready to complete a square, they’re not going to engage unless we help them see why they need to. They need to change forms of a function to gain information drives the why. Then we work on ways to understand the how. I do what research tells me: start concrete. I pull out the algebra tiles, make squares and move students toward drawing the pictorial. Some kids may not need to this, and they’ll see that we're going to draw pictures. However, it helps all of the students connect the abstract idea to working out real symbols and problems.
What is your primary goal for students?
To have them love math. To have students know that they can be successful at math and that mistakes are OK. In fact, mistakes are better than OK, they’re wonderful and we need them. If my students are making mistakes, then they’re learning, and that’s my goal.