Midlakes educator Laura Van Laeken recalls the wave of emotions at the very first regional mathematics leadership cadre offered through the University of Rochester Warner School’s Center for Professional Development and Education Reform.
"I was nearly in tears because I was overwhelmed with how they were presenting the way that we should be teaching mathematics," she said, "because for years I was using a ‘sit and get’ model with my fifth-graders."
That old ‘sit and get’ model — where a teacher stands in front of the classroom lecturing, hoping students are getting something — is no longer the norm in Van Laeken’s classroom. It has since taken the shape of a more collaborative, learner-driven environment.
"What brings me back every year is the collegiality and opportunity to be challenged as a professional on how I think about my own teaching," said Van Laeken, an academic intervention services math teacher at Midlakes Intermediate School. "This experience has impacted me in both the ways that I teach my students and work with other teachers to provide rich math learning environments."
The Regional Mathematics Leadership Cadre launch in 2011 saw the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES and the center form a partnership to provide K-12 teachers, teacher leaders, math coaches, and administrators opportunities to learn, share resources, and connect with other educators.
Van Laeken started as the only educator from the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District to participate in the cadre. She is now joined by Mareasa Severson, Kyle Percey, Shari Garver, Denice Kelly and Erin Everson as others from the district in the program.
"The vertical work done in math by our educators along with their participation in the cadre has created an emphasis on the consistent use of math vocabulary by our teachers as well as deeper questioning and tasks for our students," said Michelle Robinette, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the school district.
This year’s professional learning experiences are focusing on access and equity in mathematics. The 2018-19 cadre kicked off in November and featured a discussion around ‘labels’ that get placed on students.
"Our mission is to tackle this not only as a whole in education but to apply it directly to mathematics education,” said Jennifer Kruger, associate director of mathematics education outreach at the center. "Our ultimate hope is that educators will go back and share what they learn in their own district communities."
The importance of this year’s theme brings together a larger-than-normal cadre of 90 mathematics educators, from 20 different school districts, for multi-day professional learning experiences.
These sessions give educators time to read and research trends on equity in mathematics to stay current on emerging trends and evolving state standards. They also build connections with those from other districts, and learn about what others are doing, both regionally and nationally, in mathematics. They also bring back best practices and other ideas into local classrooms.
"I’ve been really lucky that my school has invested in this opportunity for me — and with me — and to be able to work with the center staff leading the cadre," Van Laeken said. "They are such a wealth of knowledge and such a good support system. I rely so heavily on them and appreciate what they bring to the table."
Edited and published with permission from the Warner Graduate School of Education at theUniversity of Rochester.