MANCHESTER, TENN. — With multiple MTSU degrees mostly in the science fields but taking a new position as an instructional coach at Nashville Collegiate Academy, Chatoria Franklin “had light bulbs going off” Thursday, June 14, during the Project IMPACT summer conference at Coffee County Middle School.
“Oh, my God. Amazing,” said Franklin, a Murfreesboro resident and Middle Tennessee State University science education doctoral student, of her initial exposure to Project IMPACT. “I feel like I’m learning math for the first time. Within five minutes, I had light bulbs going off, and I have been teaching for 10 years. Now I can impress upon my teachers to learn more, do more and grow more.”
In its sixth and final year, the Tennessee Department of Education grant-funded Project IMPACT helps teachers improve K-8 math instruction through risk-taking. Educators from Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Rutherford and other counties attended the conference.
Nearly 70 first-time math teachers attended the conference, joining 85 educators who have been involved in most of the six years of the project and 12 teachers who had dropped out, but returned for the final year.
This year, teachers involved for most of the previous five years led the conference, which ended June 15. They shared tasks, resources and activities as part of 17 school-based teams’ participation in a yearlong professional development.
“If a child is crying in math, you are doing it wrong,” keynote speaker Amy Parks of Michigan State University told the attentive audience. “If you do what feels good, we are doing it right.”
Six North Coffee Elementary School teachers, dressed in matching T-shirts proclaiming “RISK TAKER/HISTORY MAKER/WORLD CHANGER,” led one session — “Risky Business: Escaping Your Mathematical Fears” — that included effective use of yellow caution tape.
“This has really had an impact on what I do in the classroom,” said Kim Quick, a North Coffee educator in her 20th year of teaching.
Quick said their strategy includes open-ended tasks, sharing ideas and mistakes and making sure students don’t give up by ensuring that they try, regardless of the outcome.
“It’s students and teachers taking math risks in the classroom,” she added. “Before, I wanted to do it my way. Through Project IMPACT, I’ve discovered so many ways to solve problems. You are going to make mistakes. Hopefully, the mistakes will not be made again.”
Dr. Angela Barlow, former professor and director of the MTSU Mathematics and Science Ph.D. program who is now dean of graduate studies and director of sponsored programs at Central Arkansas University, said the returning Midstate educators were “showcasing their work, what they did in the classroom during the 2017-18 academic year. This included meeting outside of school hours, reading books and looking at things they were doing in the classroom.”
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)