See how Brandy Williams and Melissa Lugo use high-quality instructional materials while maintaining agency and creativity.
Success Spotlight 2 of 3 in our series celebrating Spring Independent School District. See Part 1, Success Spotlight: Phonisha Hawkins Revitalizes Math Education, and Part 3, Math Professional Learning Empowers Spring ISD Teachers.
Teachers are the heart and soul of any school district. Their day-to-day efforts and endless quest to do what is best for their students are what makes or breaks school success.
Phonisha Hawkins, Middle School Math Specialist, and Robyn Carrier, Director of Middle School Curriculum, both of Spring Independent School District in Houston, Texas, couldn’t agree more. Not only have they facilitated teacher and student math success in Spring ISD’s middle school math classrooms, but they spotlight their teachers’ efforts on Twitter feeds that read like a constant celebration of excellence!
That’s why we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to spotlight two teachers (among the many incredible educators) from Spring ISD’s middle school math classrooms.
Brandy Williams, 6th Grade Math Teacher at Bailey Middle School, and Melissa Lugo, 7th Grade Math Teacher at Spring Leadership Academy, have both taken on the challenge of implementing a new curriculum with the Texas Math Solution while maintaining their own creativity, enthusiasm, and student-centered perspective.
Teacher Agency and Creativity in a 6th-Grade Math Classroom
A frequent feature on Mrs. Hawkins’s Twitter feed, Mrs. Williams has been rocking it in the 6th-grade math classroom for just one year—but she has been serving students as an administrator, coach, and teacher for 22 years! She not only dives into the content with her students but is always sure to address multiple learning styles and student needs. She even gives the kids a bit of an 80s and 90s history lesson with her classroom decor!
And because we all know that teaching math to middle schoolers isn’t the easiest job out there, we asked Mrs. Williams to share her thoughts on classroom success.
She says, “Three words come to mind: clarity, confidence, and consistency. If I’m clear on what to teach and how to teach it, my confidence is built. And with confidence comes instruction that provides engaging learning opportunities at a level that is impactful to each student. This builds consistency in the practices that I use to accelerate learning for all students.”
So: clarity, confidence, and consistency. These keys to successfully engaging and educating her 6th-grade students may seem hard to come by in a post-pandemic world, but Mrs. Williams has had the support of hard-working administrators and a comprehensive curriculum with the Texas Math Solution.
“The Texas Math Solution has given me each of those things. It’s equipped me with the clarity I need to be confident in my delivery of high-level instruction on a consistent basis,” she shares.
Mrs. Williams has also found the sweet spot of using high-quality instructional materials without sacrificing her teacher agency and creativity.
House Party �� and @carnegielearn are present in Mrs. Williams @BaileyMSBucs 6th grade lesson on rational number classification @rlc1908 @HilarionMartin1 @brown_shundra pic.twitter.com/kaoi7uDTiX— Phonisha Hawkins M.Ed (@HawksMathamagic) January 30, 2023
Take this lesson on rational number classification, for example. Mrs. Williams used her ingenuity to turn the Texas Math Solution materials into a hands-on learning experience for her students. Check out this tweet that features a coordinate plane, a circular number classification chart, and the consumable text and online assessment resources of the Texas Math Solution.
Mrs. Williams also works with some sweet treats that are sure to motivate many of her 6th-graders when she uses Skittles and ratio tables to help them understand part to part to whole relationships!
But the instruction is just as amazing as the decor! �� instructional practices from our @SpringISD MS Math Teacher Sneak Peek..ratio tables to help conceptualize part to part and part to whole using skittles + our @carnegielearn as a notebook insert @rlc1908 @BaileyMSBucs https://t.co/DaOlwzeSys pic.twitter.com/NyOMQ5nCoM— Phonisha Hawkins M.Ed (@HawksMathamagic) October 27, 2022
Her consistent use of manipulatives and multiple representations of concepts is a true showcase of the agency and creativity Mrs. Williams has found within the framework of a robust and high-quality curriculum. And the best part? She’s seeing her students develop a math confidence that many never knew existed.
“I’m so grateful to the Texas Math Solution for allowing me to unfold hidden learning pathways that students never knew existed within themselves,” she shares.
A New Teacher Values a Balance of Structure and Agency
Another educator frequently mentioned when Mrs. Hawkins talks about implementation, creativity, and agency is Melissa Lugo.
Ms. Lugo teaches 7th-grade math at Spring Leadership Academy and has taken on the challenges of being a first-year teacher, navigating the post-pandemic world of education, and implementing a new, rigorous curriculum with the Texas Math Solution.
“As a first-year teacher, I experienced a reality shock when I was placed in my classroom in front of middle school students who weren’t very interested in learning math,” she shares. “Managing grades, behavior, attendance, parent communication, and creating engaging, differentiated, challenging, and inclusive lessons was completely overwhelming.”
But you may never know Ms. Lugo experienced these challenges when you see photos and videos of her classroom. Smiling faces, student collaboration and discourse, and critical thinking are abundant—and Ms. Lugo was pleasantly surprised to find all of this possible within the framework of the Texas Math Solution.
“When our math coach, Sherise Waterman, first introduced me to the Texas Math Solution, I was apprehensive. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to express myself creatively through my lessons and that it was a fixed and rigid plan,” she shares. “But I was very wrong! The Texas Math Solution is a framework that I can fully individualize for each student with real-world examples, probing questions, and differentiation strategies.”
@SpringLeadAcad Ms. Lugo facilitating her students' lesson in y=mx+b where they had to identify the components of the equation �� @carnegielearn @SpringISD pic.twitter.com/uNMMQwJVTJ— Phonisha Hawkins M.Ed (@HawksMathamagic) March 21, 2023
Way to go, Ms. Lugo—the enthusiasm and hard work she puts in to internalize lessons and adjust instruction for every student is incredible. To say we’re impressed is an understatement!
Creative Teachers Know No Bounds
Mathematics can be an intimidating subject for many students, especially during emotionally turbulent middle school years, so it’s our honor to spotlight the teacher creativity that is turning students into “math people” each and every day.
Mrs. Williams and Ms. Lugo are just the tip of the iceberg for math excellence in the middle school math classrooms of Spring ISD.
“Our students are making so much progress,” Ms. Carrier states. “Leaps and bounds! And it’s all thanks to the teachers who are digging into the math, internalizing the lessons, and showcasing their creativity.”
And we couldn’t agree more. Amazing results happen because of amazing teachers. Kudos to the middle school math teachers and coaches of Spring ISD!
Before joining Carnegie Learning's marketing team in 2022, Karen spent 16 years teaching mathematics and social studies in Ohio classrooms. She has a passion for inclusive education and believes that all learners can be meaningfully included in academic settings from day one. As a former math and special education teacher, she is excited to provide educators with the latest in best-practices content so that they can set all students on the path to becoming confident "math people."Explore more related to this author
Three words come to mind: clarity, confidence, and consistency.
Brandy Williams, 6th Grade Math Teacher