Due to the COVID-19 closure of schools last spring, the Greenville County Council for Teachers of Mathematics did not announce the recipients of the 2019-20 Math Teachers of the Year. Two GCS educators earned the honor, one at the middle school level and one at the high school level. They are Andrea Coker from Greer Middle School and Heather Ellis from J. L. Mann High Academy.
Greer Middle’s Andrea Coker has always loved math. She said, “My mom said that my first day of kindergarten I announced proudly to my teacher, ‘I can already count to 100!’ My dad was a banker and I remember at a very young age how he would help me ‘think math,’” she explained. “I remember him breaking down problems and teaching me how to think critically in order to do math problems in my head. I wanted to become a math teacher to hopefully instill my love of math in the kids that I teach.”
Ms. Coker wants her students to “think math,” too. “One of the most rewarding things for me in teaching math is when I have students that figure out a different way of doing a problem. This just makes my day and of course I have them share what they did with the rest of the class. I love it when they use their reasoning skills to explain how to solve a math problem,” she said.
J.L. Mann High Academy Geometry Teacher Heather Ellis has been a math teacher for 13 years. Math was always easy for her, she said. “I found enjoyment in helping my classmates when they didn't understand a concept. Math was no question my favorite subject, especially since I am a very logical and organized person who likes systematic practices. I knew I wanted a career that served the community and realized that teaching math merged my goal with my favorite content area,” explained Ellis.
Ms. Ellis encourages other teachers to support students by showing connections between various concepts and use real-world applications by giving students opportunities to show their learning more than just formal tests and quizzes. “I try to treat every day as a new day and give my students a new chance to be successful every day,” she said. “Teach them to have a growth mindset by changing the "I can't" to "I can't yet."