Math teachers Leslie Hicks and Daniel Cramer go beyond the walls of their enclosed classrooms to collaborate on developing growth mindsets in students and prepare them against considerably harder Common Core standards.
By receiving the Master Teacher Fellowship grant by non-profit organization Math for America Los Angeles (MFALA), they are now able to do so.
“What we’re trying to do is have the students be successful. And since one of the big changes is introduction of Common Core, especially for the students who have not experienced it before, that sort of takes an extra effort on the part of the students and the teachers,” Cramer said.
The Master Teacher Fellowship grant is a five-year fellowship awarded to experienced K-12 math and science teachers with a minimum of four years teaching experience.
Not only do they receive up to $10,000 each year while in the program, but MFALA also gives funds to the school, allowing other science, technology, engineering and mathematic teachers to teach extra classes.
“Math for America Los Angeles gives the school money to replace the fact that Mr. Cramer and I share a planning period now,” Hicks said. “So for example, Mr. Wild can teach an extra math class to make up for the fact that I’m not teaching a class.”
All the MFALA teachers meet one Saturday a month in downtown Los Angeles or Pomona in a local STEM facility, set on improving their abilities to teach their respective subject. They attend professional development conferences led by educational leaders and are part of established working groups to gain knowledge from other teachers who have been in the program for longer.
Currently, Hicks and Cramer are collaborating on a research project with goals of improving teaching by building a growth mindset and a long term focus in students. A growth mindset entails the idea of how much effort you put into solving a problem, as well as finding different strategies on how to overcome it.
“Mr. Cramer and I have time to talk about this topic, which I think is important for our students. How can I help you as a student recognize that just because you got it wrong today doesn’t mean that there’s no hope,” Hicks said. “It’s not that you’re just born being good at math or not being good at math.”
Both Cramer and Hicks were encouraged to apply for this grant through Anna Felix, a fellow math teacher. In fact, Felix is also affiliated with MFALA in a special division for newer teachers who have been teaching for a shorter period of time. Both Hicks and Cramer have been teaching for more than 10 years.
In addition, Cramer was also encouraged to join apply for this fellowship program to receive his master’s degree in curriculum, instruction and assessment. He is currently taking classes in curriculum and assessment at Walden University.