November 2022 Educator Spotlight

This section of our newsletter allows us to recognize the amazing mathematics teams, educators, and leaders in our community. This month we spotlight a first grade math team, Betsy Smith and Kim Colby,  at Sandrock Elementary in Moffat County (Craig), Colorado. This team will receive a care package of teacher goodies!

Sandrock's first grade team has embraced collaboration to support first graders to see themselves as mathematicians.  In their classrooms, you hear first graders bragging about how smart they are in math.  Many teachers have been curious to learn how this first grade team is able to inspire six-year-olds to discuss math with each other and use math language every day. Find out how Kim Colby and Betsy Smith spread the "math love” and learn more about these amazing educators below:

Betsy Smith 1st grade teacher at Sandrock Elementary Moffat County

Betsy writes:
This is my tenth year of teaching elementary age students.  I have taught fourth grade, fifth grade, and I am in the third year of teaching first graders.  Some hobbies and interests that I have outside of teaching are reading, scrapbooking, sewing quilts, arts and crafts, doing puzzles, being outdoors, gardening, and just being with family.

I have always loved math, especially in middle school and high school.  And I used math a great deal in my first career, which was nursing.  It is my favorite subject to teach!   I see math as a puzzle where you can use algorithms, formulas, and steps to find the answer.  I may struggle to find the best fit of the pieces, but through trial and error and with knowledge I have gained, I can find the answer.   And that is what I try to instill in my students- math is not impossible, there are many ways to solve a problem, but always use what you know.  I always tell my students that math can be hard, but to never give up and use the strategies you learn.  I want my students to experience the excitement in figuring out a problem and knowing they can do it.  By the end of the year, most of my students will comment that they love math after all.  

One important strategy that our team has introduced to our kids is talking with a partner--sharing their knowledge and ideas of how to solve math problems.  Students learn from each other and more times than not, that is more powerful than learning a strategy from their teacher.  Students realize they are facing the same issues when working on math problems, so they work together to solve them.  In my classroom, the students go through a random process of getting a partner every morning.  This way they learn to work with every student in the classroom.  Sometimes they become the leader in the pair; sometimes their partner is at the same skill level or maybe their skill level is lower than their partners'-- whichever situation they are in, students learn teamwork and tolerance in their daily exchanges, which makes them better mathematicians.   It is the most amazing feeling in the world to help a student feel confident in their ability to meet any challenge they have at school!


Kim Colby 1st grade teacher at Sandrock Elementary Moffat County

Kim writes:

I am a third year elementary classroom teacher. Outside of the role of teaching, I enjoy singing, reading, and decorating. I love math because once kids begin to understand the concepts, they can apply them in many ways.  And I can see their "light bulbs" light up as they get excited.  

As a teaching team, we are constantly checking in with each other and bouncing ideas off one another. I am always on the lookout for ways to incorporate math talks throughout the day, even if it's just for a few seconds at a time.  My partner has different ways of looking at things and I love using her perspective to inject different ideas about math "talking" than I might use.  It keeps me and my students always looking for new ways to think and talk about math.      

If you want to nominate an educator, leader, or team, please use the following form. Those selected to be featured in the spotlight will receive an educational care package (and the person nominating will also receive a care package). Use this link to nominate an individual or a team!

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