Alyce Reddell on the importance of connecting with students
As a math teacher and department head, Alyce Reddell wears many different hats in the classroom. She's her students' biggest cheerleader and strives to build them up in any way she can
Alyce Reddell of Berrendo Middle was one of those kids that just knew they wanted to be a teacher. She was aware of the challenges that come with the role, too, considering she came from a family of educators who tried, at times, to dissuade her from pursuing the career. Bearing their advice in mind, she started out as a Communications Disorder major in college, on the path to becoming a speech-language pathologist. However, teaching pulled her back in and she switched to elementary education, becoming certified in K through eight. She's now in her 20th year as a teacher and when speaking about her career, her passion shines through.
Alyce says that when it comes to math, students either love it or hate it, with the former being pretty rare; she puts much of this down to the harmful math myths that get passed down to children. Nevertheless, she makes it her mission to unpack this by creating a fun and engaging classroom where students can have positive discourse about making mistakes. Alyce says that peer learning is a big part of this, "I let them work together; 90% of what we do here is collaborative because I feel sometimes they can learn better from each other." Likewise, Alyce is all about making connections with students, getting them to talk and helping them feel comfortable. "From the beginning, we establish a culture of respect. We set out our class norms, we call it our social contract and hold everyone accountable for that, but also just joke and have fun."
Another strategy Alyce uses to immerse her students in math is finding real-world connections, whether that's finding the math in a newspaper story or getting students to work out the budget for the New Mexico State Fair Parade Day.
Alyce said her district has recently adopted EnVision, which the school is experimenting with to detect students' strengths and weaknesses in the wider class setting. She also uses IXL for practice, problem-solving, and checking for understanding. "I like that it gives them the option of redoing the question if they need to," said Alyce, adding that it's great for quiet students who struggle to ask for help. She also uses McGraw Hill ALEKS digital as a supplement, which focuses on where students need remediation. She explained that while so much of intervention is focused on the lower end of the spectrum, this allows her independent and self-motivated learners to progress through the upper levels at a rate that works for them.
Alyce is always challenging herself, too, and loves trying new professional development opportunities. She said while it can sometimes be hard to find professional development related to math, she tries her best to track them down. In March, for example, she attended the Mid School Math National Conference, and last year, she attended leadership training in Denver. She also enjoys bouncing ideas off of other department heads and teachers from across the different districts.
For Alyce, the thing she enjoys most about teaching is building strong relationships with her students and positively impacting their lives and outlooks on life.