Sixth grade math teacher and CCSD’s Teacher of the Year Dee Heard keeps kids focused on the positive.
Once you start talking to Demeasa “Dee” Heard, a 6th grade math teacher at Sedway Middle School in the Clark County School District in Nevada, it’s easy to see why she is the 2023 Teacher of the Year at the fifth largest district in the nation.
Her care and compassion shine through every word she speaks, and when she leans in to listen, it’s clear that she is deeply interested in what you have to share.
She’s the kind of teacher that helps students believe that they can do math—and also the kind that makes kids understand that they truly matter.
We were honored to chat with Dee about her classroom, her teaching philosophy, and her plans for the future.
Congratulations on winning Teacher of the Year! Can you tell us how you got into teaching?
Teaching is my second career. I began in Human Resources, and I always enjoyed the training and development side of that world. After becoming a 3rd grade teacher, I immediately saw that my classroom was a place where I could develop a positive learning environment where students would feel secure, motivated, and have fun while learning.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
Students are expected to enter my classroom with a positive attitude toward learning. I keep focused on building a strong and supportive classroom community while encouraging discourse each day.
How do you build good relationships with students?
Students need to laugh in the classroom! I believe that teachers can have fun while still maintaining strong classroom management. I have incorporated music, games, corny jokes, dance moves, funny memes, and hilarious YouTube videos into my teaching. I even have my version of Simon Says, called “Ms. Heard Says.” Having a sense of humor is a great way to build relationships with students.
How do you keep students engaged—particularly if they tell you they don’t like math?
When students say they don’t like math, I ask them to open their textbooks and look at all the different kinds of math they see. I remind them that math has many areas of focus, and while there might be some things they don’t like, they will find aspects of math they do like.
Students often think they have to know it all, and then they shut down when they don’t. So I emphasize that if they don’t give up, they’ll find their “thing.” Maybe only geometry will be challenging for a particular student, and they’ll enjoy algebraic reasoning more. From there, I concentrate on my students’ successes to develop motivation and keep them engaged throughout the year.
What does it mean to you to win Teacher of the Year?
This accomplishment is a significant milestone in my life. I am overjoyed and grateful that I was recognized for the deep passion and dedication I have for teaching in the fifth-largest district in the U.S. I am elated to have worked with amazing students and knowledgeable colleagues who have helped me develop my teaching style.
What advice do you have for fellow math teachers, especially new teachers?
The first two weeks of school are crucial for having a remarkable year. Take time to build relationships with students and have them build relationships with each other. Second, celebrate successes and have fun!
Can you tell us about something fun or interesting you’ve done in your classroom using a Carnegie Learning lesson or resource?
When students use MATHia, I display a “Wheel of Names” on a big screen for all students to view. I motivate and encourage students to complete as many workspaces as possible during the allotted time. At the end of our MATHia session, I provide a small treat to a few students selected from the wheel. The trick is to have your name appear on the “Wheel of Names” as many times as possible to have a better chance of being selected at the end of the session.
What about the future excites you?
I’m excited to transition into a Math Coach position next school year, which will allow me to coach teachers using research-based math strategies while using Carnegie Learning’s math solutions for instruction and assessments. I am genuinely looking forward to using the skills I have developed during my years of teaching and leadership.
As I take on this new role, I think about Tony Robbins’ words: "The only impossible journey is the one you never begin."
Thanks for sharing part of your journey with us, Ms. Heard. And thanks for everything you’ve done to guide and inspire your students!
Before joining Carnegie Learning’s marketing team in 2021, Emily Anderson spent 16 years teaching middle school, high school, and college English in classrooms throughout Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, and Minnesota. During these years, Emily developed a passion for designing exciting, relatable curricula and developing transformative teaching strategies. She holds master's degrees in English and Women’s Studies and a doctorate in American literature and lives for those classroom moments when students learn something that will forever change them. She loves helping amazing teachers achieve more of these moments in their classrooms.Explore more related to this author