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Marina MacDonald

For this month’s Teacher Spotlight we choose Marina MacDonald, a master educator and math consultant.  Her innovative approach to teaching math and true passion for the subject inspires both students and colleagues alike.

For twelve years, students in all different levels of math at Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire benefited from her innovative teaching. As Coordinator of the Math Department at Souhegan, she collaborated with K-12 teachers to begin to integrate Common Core Standards into the math curriculum. She also helped seek new math programs to pilot and searched for new technology to implement concepts required to meet Common Core Standards.  MacDonald encouraged teachers to find innovative smartphone and computer applications for students to use daily in the classroom.

MacDonald loves being in the classroom with teachers and says, “A teacher needs to always be a learner. Our work should always be new.” She advises teachers to:

  • Teach with passion.
  • Stop and listen to students.
  • Teach with data that students have collected on their own.
  • Ask students to show seven various ways to come up with an answer.
  • Employ teaching strategies that capitalize on being part of the “Net Generation” and use the internet and smart phones as tools for learning.
  • Inspire students by modeling curiosity and ongoing learning.

Currently a math consultant, MacDonald helps teachers develop a curriculum that logically connects to the Common Core. MacDonald also helps teachers develop teaching strategies such as the Rule of Four.  This “requires students be able to do all problems verbally, in a data table, in graphical form, and algebraically and/or numerically,” says MacDonald.

MacDonald feels, in the words of educational philosopher Robert Hutchins, the goal of education is to “inflame their intellect” rather than to make them “expert technicians”. For example, in an ideal MacDonald classroom, students are seen bouncing a ball and developing different parabolas to create their own data.  To encourage higher order thinking, lessons have students using the data they have created or found online.  By doing so, they take charge of their own learning and can tell their teacher what they learned or show what they know.

In her role as consultant, MacDonald coaches teachers to inform students of the competency being addressed and begin units by discussing why the topic is so important and how it can be used. With this approach, teachers explore essential questions in their units rather than limiting themselves to the traditional skill-and-drill approach to instruction.

MacDonald coaches teachers to structure opportunities for students to design authentic projects, or use a web-based project with real data to demonstrate their learning. This active learning helps students become more invested in math lessons. MacDonald explains, “This form of instruction logically connects to Common Core. Math students use material and information which have much more meaning for them and the way students learn.” Teachers also connect back to broader competency work when their students report which competencies they have met, which have mistakes, and which need further work to achieve the desired learning outcome.

MacDonald’s coaching produces great returns. Steve McDonough, Math Department Head at Laconia High School, speaks to her success: “Marina’s “we can do this” mentality and wealth of content knowledge has led to a massive amount of growth in our instructional practices as a department. It has allowed her to quickly become “one of us” in a short time.”

Marina MacDonald’s finely-tuned, creative teaching methods have earned her both The Siemens Award for her teaching AP Calculus and the Milken National Educator Award. We are proud to spotlight her efforts as she works with her colleagues throughout the Northeast to create a meaningful learning environment for math students.

MacDonald can be reached for consulting at marinajmac@gmail.com.

Contributed by Jean Keegan and Nancy Kach

 

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