State math leaders take stock at conference
On March 18, 2016, Saint Michael’s College hosted a Math Leadership Conference, facilitated by the Vermont Math Leadership Council (VMLC), an affiliate of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics.
The VMLC works to stimulate an active interest in mathematics educational leadership in Vermont, to establish and support a network focused on the interchange of ideas and professional development opportunities in the teaching of mathematics and teacher leadership, to promote the improvement of mathematics education, and to facilitate cooperation among mathematics organizations at the local, state, and national level.
The organization partnered with Saint Michael’s College to gather, identify, and share information regarding the current status of math coaches and math leaders in Vermont. The conference was organized by George Ashline, professor of mathematics at Saint Michael’s College; Mary Fitzgerald, president of the VMLC; and Lara White, math content specialist at the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). The keynote, entitled “What Coaches Do: Myths and Realities”, was delivered by Patty Kelly and Christine Pereira, Springfield Supervisory District coaches and the VMLC Board Members.
“It was particularly exciting to see the range of education professionals that self-identify as math leaders,” said Lara White, observing that among the nearly 70 attendees from across Vermont were school-based math content specialists and coaches, supervisory union coaches, curriculum directors, principals, interventionists, department chairs, teacher leaders, career and technical education teachers, adult education teachers, and classroom teachers from Kindergarten to grade 12. Celebrating the diverse representation, a quote by Donald McGannon (a broadcast industry executive) focused the day, “Leadership is an action, not a position.” White said she and other conference organizers believe Vermont math leaders have an important role in changing the mathematical mindsets of peers and students, “working with compassion and courage to advocate for math equity. Everyone is a math person.”
The conference provided time and space for Vermont math professionals to network, share successes, and problem-solve challenges. Sessions included topics on mathematical mindsets, fluid intervention models, coaching teachers, structures that sustain professional learning, performance tasks, co-planning, and proficiency in the classroom. The VMLC, in collaboration with the Vermont AOE, facilitated the breakout sessions. An EdCamp structure also allowed educators to discuss issues of their choice around curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
White shared some feedback that conference leaders received on the day about the benefits associated with the “opportunity to chat with other math leaders and to make connections with people who share similar experiences“; and, “I liked the balance of EdCamp and choices for workshops. I liked the format; it was morsels mixed with opportunities to share your own expertise”; and:”Keep providing wonderful conferences!”
The conference was organized in honor of Professor Timothy Whiteford, who recently retired from his position in the Saint Michael’s College Education Department, recognizing his many years of dedicated service to the educational community in Vermont, particularly the VMLC, and beyond.