Timothy Kelly: DoD Math Teacher Wins Presidential Award

 Timothy Kelly is a mathematics teacher at the Department of Defense Education Activity, Baumholder Middle-High School, and a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Timothy Kelly is a mathematics teacher at Baumholder Middle-High School. (Photo: Department of Defense Education Activity)

Timothy Kelly is a mathematics teacher at the Department of Defense Education Activity, Baumholder Middle-High School, and a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Let’s take a minute to imagine your Algebra I classroom back in high school. There is a lecture in progress at the chalkboard or perhaps at an overhead projector. Students are arranged in rows and the routine has been clearly established. The teacher is progressing through the textbook in preparation for the chapter test or semester exam.

Sound familiar? This scenario was the accepted form of instructional delivery for much of the 20th century. Students that couldn’t handle this environment were sent down to “consumer math.” If your recollection is similar to mine, scores of great teachers used this model and were successful in their time. But that was back then, and times were different.

The reality of the modern classroom is that we now need to prepare our students for new types of jobs, some of which have yet to be created. (Imagine writing that lesson plan!) Meanwhile, many of the traditional careers are being outsourced overseas to save money. To be successful, students will need to be both digitally and globally competent with skills that cannot be outsourced. And let’s not forget about creativity! Can you imagine a student in your Algebra class telling the teacher her career goals included making applications for the latest popular Smartphone?

Technology always seems to be a popular response when one is asked to describe the modern classroom. And while technology does play a major role in the instructional process as a tool, it does not alone define the 21st Century classroom. A modern classroom must embrace collaboration, media literacy, creativity and problem solving. These are skills that are not defined by technology, but are supported with technology.

(Photo: Department of Defense Education Activity)

The goal in my classroom is to use technology to do different things, and not just to do things differently. For example, the TI-Navigator wireless networking system allows my teacher computer to communicate with my students’ graphing calculators. Student conjectures can be instantly displayed on the board through a digital projector. I can poll the students quickly, construct a table of values in seconds, or send a quick quiz that can be graded and compiled with misconceptions highlighted. Completing these tasks within a class period would not have been feasible before the advent of the graphing calculator and this wireless interface.

Another example of doing different things would include the use of our digital whiteboard, the Smartboard. While it could stand alone as a glorified dynamic chalkboard, the software that is included is most beneficial. Notes and class discussions can be recorded in the software and saved for later viewing. There is even a shortcut which, when used with a distribution list containing your students’ email addresses, can quickly send files to all of your students (and parents) within seconds. This feature is especially useful for students who were absent or those with learning disabilities. Sending email also fosters communication between the students and teacher in a nonthreatening environment.

By focusing on doing different things, I was recently awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. I feel fortunate that working for Department of Defense Education Activity has given me the opportunity to use various types of technology in my classroom. We must realize that using this technology in innovative and creative ways prepares students to be competitive players in a dynamic global world.

This is the second of two blog posts exploring Defense Department recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In our first post, we heard from Ray Smola, physics teacher at Heidelberg High School.