Leah Christian, Oshkosh, WI
In 2015 I was accepted into CPM’s first Academy of Best Practices (ABP) workshop in Seattle. Thirty-two math teachers from around the U.S. came together with a common goal: to help our students and schools by becoming better teachers. After that week in Seattle, I left with a larger network of peers, new ideas worth sharing with my department, and a solid action plan for the new school year. One of our speakers told us to say “Yes!” to opportunities because you never know the wonderful places it can take you.
My second year of teaching was far more successful than my first, and I truly believe it was because of my week at ABP. Throughout the school year following my week at the institute, I continued collaborating with my fellow ABP members and leaders through Facebook, monthly conference calls, and posts through our Google+ Community page. Then in February we were all presented with the opportunity to help the next ABP cohort by being a mentor. Before this offer, I had attended the CPM National Conference. During Sharon Rendon’s coaching session I was feeling out of place because I was not in a leadership role at my school. But as her presentation and the interactions went on, I kept thinking I want to be in that role; I want to help other teachers the way ABP helped me. Naturally, when the ABP leadership presented us with the opportunity to be a mentor I had to say, “Yes.” I applied and CPM accepted me.
As the first day of ABP 2.0, what we called the new session of ABP, approached I had the same excitement as I did the year prior. But this year I had a new goal in mind: to help as many of the new teachers in this cohort any way I could. With a weeklong professional development, you learn an incredible amount of useful information that you want to apply to your classroom. However, the more you learn, the more overwhelmed you might become. How can you possibly implement a hundred things you have learned right away? Well, you can’t. Not all at once anyway. I wanted to make sure the new members were able to narrow down to one big idea to start the new year and build from there.
My first task as the ABP mentor was to host a welcome social for the new members. I had been in contact with many of them before arriving in Seattle, and it was so exciting to put faces to names. I wanted to know more about each of them: how long have they been teaching; what is their school like; why did they want to become a teacher? But most importantly I wanted to know why they wanted to attend ABP. I wanted to know what they hoped to bring back to their classrooms and schools.
At the end of the first class, I could see the look of panic on some faces. “How can I possibly manage to do all of that?” This was why I was there. It was my time to help. I would ask, “What is the number one thing your perfect classroom would have?” And based on the answer I was given, I could help them focus on one or two ideas. I shared the materials I gathered from conferences and from the members of my cohort. I recommended websites, communities, and books that helped me. By the end of the week, I had a new group of teachers to share ideas with; I had a new action plan for what I was going to implement this year; I also gained my first experience as a mentor to a colleague. It was incredible to witness and help thirty-two fellow teachers who want to make a difference in math education. I hope I can continue helping teachers achieve this goal.