What Brought Me Here
Hello, my name is Darlene Kusick. I am a teacher with 25 years of teaching experience. I have achieved my Master of Education in elementary math and science and have achieved an Excellence Teaching Award in 2012. From 2001 to the present year I have written and published teacher guide books from Kindergarten to Gr. 6. My work is known as Math For Success. Presently, my Grade 7 book is in pilot mode in the Northern Lights School Division. The teacher in lead of this is Marjorie Charles, a very talented young teacher, who is a math lead teacher in her school. This Grade 7 book will be published when I feel it is at its best for teachers and students.
I would like to take this time to backtrack to my own school years as a high school student. Math gave me challenges throughout my elementary and junior high years, but believe it or not, I almost failed high school math. I had the intelligence and achieved well in other subject areas but just couldn’t wrap my head around the math concepts. When I attended University to achieve my Bachelor of Education degree, my thought was just make it through the math curriculum and instruction course, and that is what I did.
When I started to teach I felt I was letting my students down. I was teaching students like I was taught and I knew that wasn’t helpful to my own success. At that time, the curriculum was being taught in units or what one principal referred to as snapshot mathematics. Children were not mastering their learning nor were they seeing the connections or integration between strand/outcomes/ concepts, which is so important to number sense. After 3 temporary/part-time positions in a Grade 1, Grade 5 and Grade 4 classroom, I was hired as a full-time Grade 2 teacher in Sundre, Alberta. I was bound and determined to teach math in a way that would help my young students feel and be successful. I believe the biggest obstacle to overcome is the negative attitude students demonstrate towards the learning of mathematics. I recently had a close friend tell me her young grandson refers to math class as torture time.
In order to help my Grade 2 students I, myself needed to unpack my own mathematical understanding of the curriculum outcomes. The curriculum became my bible and I explored and played, teaching the outcomes in an integrated approach rather than a unit by unit approach. The students were learning AND they were having fun! Math class for my students wasn’t a traditional setting in which I taught and then they completed worksheets or a workbooklet. We were communicating our thoughts and answers orally, in writing and with manipulatives. It was a busy and sometimes noisy classroom, but students were talking and engaged in the mathematics. How could math class be so fun? Other teachers in the school began popping their heads in to see what the students were so excited about.
One of the Grade 3 teachers began encouraging me to get these ideas on paper so more teachers and students could benefit. In 2001, I took a 5 month sabbatical to write and publish my first teacher guide book for Grade 2, titled Math For Success and I have been on a journey ever since. I am passionate about mathematics and want more than anything to help teachers gain understanding, knowledge and confidence in mathematics to benefit their own students. It is not just about the academic learning, but also about the love of mathematics...playing with and manipulating number with ease, creativity and flexibility, which is what numeracy entails. Math literacy is just as important as reading/writing literacy and yet it always seems to take a back seat.
I am a life-long learner and will continue my journey with my own learning so I can help teachers and students. To deliver the math curriculum effectively to our students we have to have the confidence in ourselves and this comes from unpacking our own mathematical knowledge. By empowering yourself, you will empower your students.
I ask you to think what are the challenges you face when teaching mathematics to your students? Is it not knowing the what problems to pose? What guiding questions to ask? What strategies to teach? What activities/games to incorporate? If we can begin by sharing what our challenges are it will lead to many valuable conversations, as well as guide me where to begin with on-line courses and resources and/or mentorship opportunity with you and your students.
I have, through my journey, ignited a passion within myself for mathematics which I never would have imagined. Let me ignite your passion and help you gain insight, skill, knowledge and confidence to ignite the passion within your students.