When Lisa Henry started teaching, she had to rely on what she had been taught in college and maybe some supplemental material left behind by the teacher she replaced.
“You had very little in terms of, ‘How can I teach this better?’” she said. “Everything was on paper, it was expensive, and it was very difficult to come by.”
Not quite 10 years ago, the Brookfield High School math teacher found a resource that has given her suggestions on teaching certain concepts, and getting students thinking instead of just listening: other teachers, who share their experiences over social media.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently recognized Henry and her efforts to connect teachers by having her speak at one of three regional conferences Nov. 1 to 3 in Kansas City. Her talk was titled, “Casting a Wider Net: Hows and Whys of Being a Connected Teacher.”
Henry talked about her online experiences and what she learned from others that she uses in her classroom.
“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do,” she said of the presentation, but, judging from the fact that no one left in the middle of it, she considered it a success.
Part of the pressure she felt was from the fact that she, a “career classroom teacher,” as she calls herself, was featured with many speakers who have university positions.
“We don’t get recognized very often and certainly not at an individual level,” she said. “I was so proud to be able to represent Brookfield in a good, positive way.”
What surprised her the most was not the response she received at the conference, but from the students back in school. Many came up to her and asked her how things went and said it was great that she did it, she said.
Henry, who had help from senior Nick Goodworth in putting together her slides for the presentation, discovered Twitter as a teaching resource in 2009, when her husband, Jason, asked her to look into whether it would be a good idea for their church to have a Twitter account.
She found that other teachers were on Twitter, and they were willing to post about homework, grading and assessing students.
She wanted to meet some of these teachers face-to-face and helped create Twitter Math Camp in 2012, where teachers can come together over the summer break and continue their discussions of these and other subjects.
“It was one of the most transformative experiences I’ve had in my career,” she said of the first camp. “It was restorative to my teaching soul.”
In her 27 years of teaching – 20 with Brookfield – the University of Toledo graduate has seen many changes. Local control of the curriculum has faded with the implementation of county and then state standards that specify what students are supposed to learn.
The ways of teaching also have evolved. The model of a teacher standing in front of a class and telling students what they need to know has been replaced by a teacher trying to help students figure things out for themselves.
“The answer’s just part of it,” said Henry, who teaches algebra II, geometry and applied mathematics. What’s more important is “how you get to it.”
That’s where her social media contacts have come in handy, helping her: find ways to use technology in the classroom; change the way she speaks in class, such as asking students what question they have instead of whether they have questions; and find activities the students can do in class.
In return, she has shared some of her teaching methods.
Even though Henry, a mother of a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, lives in Canfield, she felt at home in Brookfield a short time after she was hired. That’s because of the close, supportive relationships the teachers have with each other and the administration, and the way the community supports the teachers.
“We’re doing good things here,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”