Here at LearnBop we have a team of amazing educators with diverse backgrounds who have come on board to author content for our interactive Bops. To help you get to know them better, we have a series of Author Profiles. Today's installment is written by Bethany Johnston, a valued member of our author team.
I grew up in an education-rich family. My mother began a preschool in our home when I was four. Her passion for developmentally-appropriate practices and an inquiry-based approach to learning influences my practices to this day. My father was a university math professor and department chair, fueling my mathematical curiosity. My second grade and middle school math teachers also provided the push needed for me to pursue mathematics as a life-long career, a career with middle grades students which began 20 years ago at Knob Noster Middle School, located in the small rural town of Knob Noster, Missouri.
Our district is quite unique, having the added bonus of Whiteman Air Force Base being in the area; about 60% of our students are from military families. Altogether I've spent 14 of my 20 years in education here in Knob Noster: my first 3 and the past 11 (those 6 years in between were spent teaching grades 5-8 in 3 other rural, suburban, and urban schools in Missouri and Illinois).
In 2004, I was invited to be a master teacher in the Missouri Elementary Mathematics Leadership Academy. I later became a master teacher for the Missouri Middle Grades Mathematics Leadership Academy and was a member of the writing team for our lessons presented to our teacher participants. In addition to my full-time teaching, I've recently joined the University of Central Missouri as a clinical faculty member, teaching a face-to-face course each semester for a cohort of teachers pursuing their Elementary Mathematics Specialist Certification. Teaching these courses and writing Bops for elementary grades has been a win-win for both pursuits.
Our family lives in Warrensburg, Missouri, about 10 miles from my school. My husband is a counselor, pastor, and wrestling coach. Yes, we both have 3 jobs! My daughter absolutely loves horses and has started jumping; barrel racing may be next. My son is a wrestling fanatic and also loves cross country. We have 4 horses, 2 dogs, and 2 rabbits, plus a few barn cats (that number varies!).
Through my work with the math academies, I had the privilege to work with Cindy Bryant and Nancy Bergfeld. My respect for their dedication to excellence in math education made joining them in this endeavor an easy choice. I was quite intrigued by the idea of Bops and was up for the challenge of authoring.
Perseverance Leads to Success
My challenge each year is to get kids to embrace a growth mindset. Everyone can learn math at high levels, not just some people. Since many have had less-than-wonderful math experiences in the past, it’s my mission to offer them their best year of learning yet. Success comes from their effort and continued perseverance.
A student I had my very first year (scary thought!), who happens to teach in our district at one of the elementary schools, recently relayed a memory he has of that first year where I challenged him to look for another way to solve a problem, when he thought he had already figured it out. As it turned out, his strategy wasn’t ALWAYS going to work and therefore he says his attitude toward math changed from that day on. He no longer was an “in-the-box” thinker and had success from then on. Who knew one little suggestion could be so powerful! This has reaffirmed my conviction to never tell students explicitly how to do something or the exact answer. I will continue to ask many probing questions to allow them the opportunity to discover authentic, hopefully longer-lasting, meaning for themselves.