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The Master Teacher Team is Growing! Welcome 14 New Teachers to the Master Teacher Project!

June 6, 2013

BetterLesson is thrilled to introduce our new Master Teachers. Fourteen teachers will join our current team of 28 Master Teachers in creating and sharing their teaching insight and experience through the BetterLesson site. These Master Teachers were selected for their exceptional mathematical knowledge, unique ability to illuminate math for their students, as well as leadership in their schools and community.  They are an inspiring, dedicated group who are eager to help teachers around the country make the leap to the Common Core.

The Master Teacher Project is a natural outgrowth of BetterLesson’s mission to connect teachers to teachers and measurably improve instruction. Generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Project aims to make quality, Common Core-aligned, year-long courses, units & lessons freely available to teachers everywhere. The current focus is math, grades 6-12. Even more, this project hopes to provide real recognition and professional opportunities to exceptional teachers around the country. During this initial pilot program, the 42 Master Teachers will create and share these lessons on BetterLesson.  These fully articulated courses will be free and easily re-mixable.

BetterLesson recognizes that great teaching is about much more than lesson plans alone.  To that end, Master Teachers will also share complementary material in the form of hints, tips and reflections, which will endow their lessons with even greater usability. These complementary narratives and videos will provide a window into their classrooms and exemplary teaching practices.

Who are these 14 new Master Teachers?  Eleven women and three men are joining the Project. Twelve serve in public schools, while two currently serve in charter schools. In total, they have over 145 years of combined experience. They hail from nine different states and the District of Columbia and represent urban, suburban, high-need & high performing populations. A highly decorated group,  four National Board Certified Teachers, one Raytheon Math Hero, the  2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year,  a “Hoodie” Award Winner, and a Presidential Award for Math and Science  Winner, will join the Master Teacher Team. Though they embrace a wide variety of teaching paradigms, this diverse group is united by their commitment to helping their students achieve excellence, especially during this period of transition to the Common Core.

Without further ado here are the 14 new Master Teachers:

Grade 6

Name: Michelle Braggs

School/ Location: Pointe South Middle School, Jonesboro, GA

Bio: Michelle Braggs is a 6th grade math teacher at Pointe South Middle School in Jonesboro, Georgia. Michelle wears many hats, besides being a classroom teacher she serves as a curriculum writing team member, professional development facilitator and is the math department’s Great Effective Lead Teacher (GELT). She is a passionate teacher who loves her craft and is always looking for ways to improve her ability to transfer knowledge to her students.

Quote: Being a participant in the Master Teacher Project is a wonderful opportunity to give that much more to improving education on a global scale while learning new and exciting ways to improve education at the classroom level. For this reason, I am more than excited! I am thankful and proud to be a part of this ambitious endeavor that not only provides resources for teachers but, in doing so, will also provide unity in education across the nation for all who use BetterLesson.”

Name: Ursula Lovings

School: All City Leadership Academy, New York, NY

Bio: Ursula Lovings is a 6th grade math teacher at All City Leadership Academy in Brooklyn, NY.  After several years in corporate America and a few in the acting world, she discovered her love of teaching through the NYC Fellows Program.  She enjoys bringing her past experiences into the classroom and making math fun and approachable.

Quote: “I’m excited to participate in the Master Teacher Project and develop a curriculum that provides students with hands-on activities, real world applications, collaborations, and allows an opportunity for discovery and critical thinking.”

Grade 7

Name: Erica Burnison

School: C.A. Jacobs Intermediate School, Dixon, CA

Bio: Erica Burnison will be joining the 7th grade team. A former underwater scientific diver at her alma mater UC Berkeley, Erica began teaching middle school math in the San Francisco Bay Area 15 years ago. She is a district coordinator for the UC Davis I-STAR project whose participants are working to integrate the STEM disciplines around reasoning practices. Her greatest joy in teaching is when she can change a students’ attitudes about math, their ability to do math and rekindle their natural joy of learning.

Quote: “I love working with passionate professionals to improve learning experiences in the classroom and really look forward to collaborating with my colleagues and coaches.”

Name:  Yazmin Chavira

School: Kipp Academy Middle School, Bronx, NY

Bio: Paula Yazmin Chavira is a 7th grade math teacher at KIPP Academy Middle School in the Bronx, NY, where she has taught for 6 years. She joined Teach for America after graduating from college in 2007 and was recruited as a 5th grade Thinking Skills teacher. In 2010 she began teaching 7th grade math. In 2012, 94% of the 7th grade students at Academy achieved a level 3 or 4 in the New York State Math Exam. Over half of the 7th grade (56%) earned a level 4, the highest level possible.

Quote: “I’ve been interested in the Common Core for the past two years, trying to learn as much as possible to help prepare my students and fellow teachers. I’m looking forward to learning more from the BL coaches, and I want to push myself to integrate more technology next year. I believe that the integration of technology will open a range of new learning opportunities, increase work efficiency for teachers, and help my students better prepare for the real world.”

Grade 8:

Name: Heather Sparks

School: Taft Middle School, Oklahoma City, OK

Bio: Heather Sparks will be joining the 8th grade team. She is a National Board Certified Teacher at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City. A Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, she was the 2008 Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year and the 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.  Currently, she is completing her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Quote: “I’m excited to work with the Master Teacher Project because I get to share what I do and hopefully change the way math is taught in a secondary math classroom!”

Name: Krishunda Penn

School: Columbia Heights Educational Campus, Washington, DC

Bio: Krishunda Penn is an 8th grade math teacher Washington, DC and has been teaching in the metro area for 8 years. She graduated From Howard University and continued her studies in education at Trinity University. She is passionate about creating a classroom culture that fosters self-discovery and conceptual learning in mathematics.

Quote: “I’m thrilled to be collaborating with teachers across the country to create and share lessons that will help students meet the Common Core State Standards!”

Algebra I:

Name: Rhonda Leichliter

School: Rogers High School, Rogers, AK

Bio:  Rhonda will be joining the Algebra I team. She is a teacher at Rogers New Tech High School. National Board certified in mathematics of adolescence and young adulthood, she has a B.A. in mathematics and a M.A. in education.  Rhonda brings many years of experience working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

Quote: “I am excited to be a part of the Master Teacher Project, and the global effect it will have on education. I am ready to share my knowledge and learn as much as I can from other teachers. It will help me encourage teachers in my own district to unite together to improve education in our own community.”

Name: Glendora Franklin

School: Friendship Collegiate Academy, Washington DC

Bio: Ms. Franklin is an Algebra I teacher with over twelve years of expertise; yet she still states that she is ever-evolving. She has taught subjects ranging from Pre-Algebra to Algebra II. She also serves as the curriculum coordinator at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, DC. Her mantra is simple: Failure is NOT an option!

Quote: “Differentiation is not just an option; it is an opportunity!”

Algebra II:

Name: Kelli Ireton

School: Junction City High School, KS

Bio: Kelli Ireton will joining the Algebra II team. Kelli has taught a mixture of Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra II for 6 years at Junction City High School, Junction City, Kansas.  She is honored to teach a very diverse set of students with 65% of the school population associated with Fort Riley Military Base.   She has earned bachelor degrees in psychology & secondary education, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, all from Kansas State University.

Quote: “I am so excited to be part of such a great project.  There are so few resources for teachers to use that are aligned with the CCSS, and being part of Better Lesson, whose mission is to bring teachers together around the country, is a great honor.  I am looking forward to the work and results that will come from this project and cannot wait to share my ideas with the country!”

Name: Horace Buddoo

School: West Broward High School, Pembroke Pines, FL

Bio: Horace Buddoo is a high school math educator at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines, FL. Horace will be joining the Algebra II team. From the first day he stepped into the classroom as a substitute teacher back in 2003, he knew that it was the beginning of a lifelong and rewarding journey in education. He has taught a wide range of courses from Algebra 1 to AP Calculus and has a great passion for math education.  He is an “out-of-the-box” thinker when it comes to his lessons, and his goal is to create a generation of “mathemaddicts”, one student at a time.

 Quote: “This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with master teachers across the United States who are really passionate about teaching!  We get to bring our experiences, knowledge, ideas, ingenuity, and innovation together to create something that will definitely be greater than the sum of its parts. I have no doubt that our Common Core aligned lessons will be the gold standard for math education in the years to come!”


Name: Anthony Carruthers

School: John Muir High School, Pasadena, CA

Bio: Anthony Carruthers will be joining the Geometry team. He is a high school math teacher at John Muir High School in Pasadena, California. He has been teaching in various capacities for the past 20 years. He strives to move students beyond the mentality that math is just something they want to “pass”, and instead motivates them to actually learn mathematics and appreciate it as a rewarding mental discipline.

Quote: “To be a practicing math teacher at this pivotal time in the history of our profession is already exciting. To also have the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best math teachers in the nation in an environment that promotes innovation and continuous improvement is more than I could ever ask for.”

Name: Jessica Uy

School: Fremont High School, Sunnyvale, CA

Bio: Jessica Uy is a Geometry teacher at Fremont High School in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She studied math and American Studies at UC Davis and earned her master’s degree in education from Stanford.  Jessica holds National Board certification in adolescence and young adulthood mathematics and is a Knowles Science Teaching Foundation senior fellow and a Math for America Master Teacher.  She enjoys collaborating, reflecting, and learning with other teachers and is excited to continue growing in her practice with others.

Quote: “I am excited to participate in the Master Teacher Project because I think it will provide a space for passionate people to create the amazing lessons our students deserve!”

Year 4:

Name: Libbi Sparks

School: William Chrisman High School, Independence, MO

Bio: Libbi will be joining the Year 4 team. Libbi has taught mathematics for 27 years. The past 17 have been spent at William Chrisman High School in Independence, MO.  She earned her  bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from Truman State University and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri-KC. Libbi became an eMINTS certified teacher in 2009.

Quote: “I am excited to work with other teachers on creating activities and lessons designed to improve students’ learning experience.”

Name: Tim Marley

School: Troy High School, Troy MI

Bio: Tim Marley will be joining the Year 4 team. He is mathematics teacher at Troy High School in Troy, Michigan. He has five years of experience as a teacher and has recently received his master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Previously, Tim studied packaging and mathematics at Michigan State University.

Quote: “I am excited to refine and improve my own teaching and the instruction of others through collaboration with outstanding teachers throughout the country; this will positively impact my students and countless other students around the country.”


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