Math rocks at Cle­ments

Teacher wants stu­dents to laugh and learn

The Covington News - - OPINION - By Jenny Thompson

Sandie Albrit­ton has taught in many dif­fer­ent places dur­ing her 17 year ca­reer in ed­u­ca­tion.

Her hus­band has re­tired from the mil­i­tary, but his ac­tive duty has taken their fam­ily from Utah to Vir­ginia to Warner Rob­bins and fi­nally to New­ton County.

“ This is it,” Albrit­ton said. “ We’re not mov­ing again.”

Albrit­ton’s vi­brant per­son­al­ity keeps stu­dents in any state fo­cused in her eighth grade math­e­mat­ics classes.

“ I tell jokes all the time,” Albrit­ton said. “ I have to keep them in­ter­ested or they won’t pay at­ten­tion and they won’t learn.”

Albrit­ton said she loves math and she loves mid­dle school stu­dents. She stu­dent- taught in sec­ond grade and re­al­ized she didn’t have a nurs­ery rhyme mind- set needed for teach­ing lower el­e­men­tary grades.

She en­joys hav­ing to ad­just at a mo­ment’s no­tice be­cause of the mood­i­ness of 12-, 13and 14- year- olds.

“ They’re just walk­ing hor­mones,” Albrit­ton said.

Albrit­ton tries to trans­fer her en­thu­si­asm for math­e­mat­ics to all of her stu­dents.

“ I like watch­ing a kid at the be­gin­ning of the year come in hat­ing math,” Albrit­ton said, “ and leav­ing at the end of the year lov­ing and feel­ing very com­fort­able with it.”

A stu­dent’s score on the eighth grade read­ing and math por­tions of the Cri­te­rion Ref­er­enced Com­pe­tency Tests taken in the spring de­ter­mine whether he or she can ad­vance to high school.

Albrit­ton said she and other Cle­ments math teach­ers try to al­le­vi­ate some of the stress stu­dents may feel lead­ing up to the ex­ams.

“ We re­mind them con­stantly that if they are in the room work­ing, they’re go­ing to be fine,” Albrit­ton said. “As teach­ers we’re al­ways look­ing at our data at where our prob­lem ar­eas are, so we can see what we need to fo­cus on.”

Her class­room motto “ math rocks.”

When a com­puter tech­ni­cian at Cle­ments teased her by say­ing “ com­put­ers rock,” Albrit­ton had her stu­dents gather rocks from around the school and write the word “ math” on them.

Some were given to the com­puter tech­ni­cian, oth­ers were kept by the stu­dents to re­mind them — es­pe­cially if they strug­gled with math in high school — that math was fun in the eighth grade.

Some­times stu­dents don’t un­der­stand why they have to learn a par­tic­u­lar tenet of math­e­mat­ics, so Albrit­ton steps in to try to ra­tio­nal­ize it for them.

For in­stance, when stu­dents be­gan moan­ing about the need to know square roots by me­mory, Albrit­ton ex­plained how car­pen­ters — even into the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury — needed to know square roots to cre­ate carpen- ter squares.

She gave them all a car­pen­ter square pat­tern and soon the stu­dents could rat­tle off any num­ber’s square roots.

Also, to help stu­dents per­form op­er­a­tions in their heads Albrit­ton has in­vited a guest speaker she calls a hu­man cal­cu­la­tor.

Albrit­ton said her big­gest chal­lenges are hav­ing enough time to work through the cur­ricu­lum and stock­ing her class­room with some­times ex­pen­sive math­e­mat­ics ma­nip­u­la­tives.

“ Some­times chil­dren come to school and don’t even have the money to buy pen­cils and pa­per,” Albrit­ton said.

She must make sure the chil­dren have the sup­plies they need, which some­times means dip­ping into her own pocket.

Albrit­ton also serves as Cle­ments teacher leader in the county’s pro­fes­sional learn­ing pro­gram “ Teach­ers as Lead­ers.” She at­tends work­shops with teach­ers from the sys­tem’s other schools and then re­lays the in­for­ma­tion to teach­ers at Cle­ments.

Sylvia Jor­dan, Cle­ments’ prin­ci­pal, en­cour­aged Albrit­ton to ap­ply to be the teacher of the year from the school. Her col­leagues se­lected her as Cle­ments’ 2008 Teacher of the Year.

“ That to me is a vote of con­fi­dence,” Albrit­ton said. “ Even if I don’t get an­other award in my life, it won’t mat­ter be­cause to me this means the most.”

Albrit­ton said her stu­dents are the things she loves most about her job.

“ Ev­ery year I give birth to 120 new stu­dents, and I tell them I’m their mama and I tell them they can come to me with any­thing,” Albrit­ton said. “ It’s painfully hard to see them walk out the door at the end of the year and go on to high school.”

While it’s dif­fi­cult to say good­bye, stu­dent ad­vance­ment is how Albrit­ton knows she has suc­ceeded in her job and makes her heart swell.

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