All Star: Cape teacher wins national educator award
By MEGHAN BRADBURY
A Cape Coral teacher received a McGraw-Hill ALEKS All-Star Educator Award, a new awards program honoring outstanding educators, for going above and beyond for her students.
“For 20 years, ALEKS has helped students reach their full potential, but student success cannot be achieved without truly extraordinary educators,” McGraw-Hill CEO Simon Allen said in a prepared statement. “It’s important that the education community recognizes inspiring and accomplished educators who are leading by example. We are thrilled to honor these all-star educators, who have made such meaningful differences in the lives of those they teach.”
Gulf Middle School pre-algebra teacher Laurie Kane received the K-12 ALEKS All-Star Educator Award as did Triton College (River Grove, Ill) Math teacher Tuan Dean.
“When I filled out the application, I thought it was some small little thing. I didn’t know it was a national award. The McGraw-Hill rep sent me an email saying I think you should do this. I forwarded it to my assistant principal and he said ‘Yes, let’s do this.’ He had to fill out a portion. I had to fill out a portion,” Kane said. “You don’t become a teacher to get recognition, except from your students. My favorite four words are ‘now I get it.’ That’s the only recognition I ever want to get from my students. When I get anything else, that is icing on the cake.”
Kane said she normally does not fill out any applications, but was turned on to the McGraw-Hill ALEKS All-Star Educator Award because she uses the ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces) program and really believes in it.
“The program is not the most exciting for the students. I have to try hard to get them to buy into it. The students were surprised, and not surprised (of me winning the award.) They know how passionate I am about the program. I think they were pretty excited,” Kane said.
She won $250 and $1,000 to go towards a nonprofit organization of her choice, the Foundation for Lee County Schools, and materials to use in the classroom.
McGraw-Hill School Group CMO Elizabeth Lehnertz said they are so excited for the opportunity to provide the 2019 ALEKS All-Star Educator Awards, while celebrating their 20th anniversary. She said with ALEKS being an impactful product they wanted to celebrate their milestone while celebrating educators.
Lehnertz said ALEKS is an adaptive online program that determines precisely what a student knows and does not know. She said the program is a learning plan to help teachers and students achieve success.
“It was born out of research to help deeply understand what a students knows and pinpoint areas where they need focus and where growth is most beneficial. It’s a plan to lead to their individualized success. It tends to be a supplemental program,” she said, adding that the flexibility in use causes a rich compliment.
The award was launched in the fall and almost 100 submissions were received from all over the country from diverse populations. Lehnertz said they combed through the submissions, which was difficult, to choose two winners and recognize the impact they have made on their students.
Kane began teaching at Gulf Middle more than two decades ago.
“This is my 25th year at the same school. When you believe in the school you work at, you don’t want to leave. The administration and teachers really care about the student welfare. The top priority is doing what’s best for every student,” she said. “I would recommend that school to anyone. I believe in the teachers that work there and the administration.”
Kane chose middle school age students because she feel she understands that age group the best.
“I love what I teach. I love the math that I teach,” she said, adding that she tells her students “You don’t have to love math as much as I do. I will teach you how to do math. I promise to help you at least do it.”
Math has always been the subject Kane has taught, but has varied at different levels at the middle school. For the past 15 years she has taught eighth grade lower level students. A lot of her incoming students have failed the state test and do not have a lot of confidence when it comes to math.
“The first thing you have to change is their attitude,” she said. “They are not going to learn if they don’t believe they can do it.”
That belief starts with Kane talking with the student to help them believe in themselves, while knowing that she will be there to provide assistance.
“I will be here whenever they need me . . . morning, lunch, planning, after school . . . they finally realized when they come to me ‘she is here and she is going to help me,'” she said. Then we go from there. The teaching starts.”
It is often hard for the students to ask questions in front of other students, as well as their teacher.
“It’s hard for them to show themselves. They don’t want to participate. Every year I think I make a difference and I seem to get them out of their shell. That is when learning takes place,” Kane said.
She continues to grasp her students’ attention because if one way of instruction does not work, she goes to her back-up plan, another way to solve an equation.
“I think it makes them feel like if this doesn’t work for me I have something else,” Kane said. “It is their security blanket.”
She said she tries to make sure her 140 students have everything they need.
Lehnertz said they are so honored and pleased to recognize Kane with the award.
“She goes above and beyond for her students. She is so motivated to help them succeed. Her ability to help them believe in themselves and get them to succeed is amazing,” she said.
Lehnertz said the McGraw-Hill ALEKS All-Star Educator Award is something they have decided to continue annually. She said they are looking to relaunch the program in the fall to spotlight and recognize their customers, teachers and students and the impacts the program has had.