Maria Crouse: Encouraging math exploration and putting students in control of their learning
Maria Crouse, a teacher and instructional coach at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, brings a huge amount of passion to teaching, and her enthusiasm and joy for math are contagious. Believing in her students’ capabilities, she encourages them to find new ways of learning and emphasizes that students are much more than just their GPA.
Educator Maria Crouse always wanted to be a high school math teacher - she just took a slightly longer route to get there. As a strong student, she was pushed towards engineering, but when in college, she realized it wasn’t where her passion was and decided to leave. From there, she began working in retail, which led to a successful career in human resources, but following the 2008 crash, she decided to retrain and returned to what brought her joy all those years ago: math. She’s now in her fourth year as a teacher, and as of this year, is also working as an instructional coach.
Always seeking to find new ways to demonstrate the different applications and integrations of math, Maria recently completed her master’s in integrated curriculum, which has given her a fresh perspective. She’s also learned a lot from her time working as an instructional coach, too, and said that now, more than ever, she’s realized the importance of centering students at the heart of everything teachers do. Maria is also a big advocate for putting learning in students’ hands and giving them the space to investigate the different aspects of math.
Aware of how much math anxiety can knock students’ confidence, Maria said that since changing the focus from students’ ability to earn an A, B, or C to celebrating their proficiency in particular skills, she’s noticed a huge shift in their attitudes to math and the responsibility they take for their own learning. Maria now breaks down the skills students exhibit in assessments and, when they’re comfortable, encourages them to pursue the next level of mastery. “I’m giving them their own space and recognizing that we all have our unique tie lines around how long it takes us to get us where we need to go.”
Maria makes sure to celebrate every win, too, and her classroom has a big wall of colorful stars full of her students’ achievements. She explained, “What you say and do can have a major impact on a student for years, and change what they choose as a career. The ultimate goal is to do your best for the students, so bring your energy and your smile, and don’t forget to give them high fives at every opportunity you get!”
Photos courtesy of Maria Crouse