Christine Hopkinson is an instructional coach in Greeley/Evans (CO) Public Schools, which has 25 schools and 21,000 students. She has been a coach and teacher for 25 years and was selected as a Eureka Math Fellow in the spring of 2016. The elementary schools in her district started dabbling in Eureka Math/EngageNY Math in 2014, with full implementation a year later in the 2015–2016 school year. Jackson Elementary, a Title 1 school and an early adopter of Eureka Math, showed incredible growth on the PARCC test. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
What made you decide to apply to become a Fellow?
When I first saw the announcement about Eureka Math Fellows, I thought, no way am I qualified. But I wanted the Eureka Math professional development to bring back to my district, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the curriculum with others around the country. I love that the PD is embedded in the curriculum so that teachers are gaining content knowledge along with the students. It’s a rising tide lifting both teachers and students.
What have you been focused on in your role as a Fellow?
I presented many PD sessions last summer and this past school year to Kindergarten through Grade 5 teachers from various districts. In my district, I led Eureka Math sessions for about 70 teachers and our coaching cadre. I also offered abbreviated sessions for our principals. They’re excited about Eureka Math implementation, and many have invited me to their schools to provide more training.
I’ve focused mainly on preparation and customization, helping my colleagues learn the “big rocks” first. We have many high-needs students, so I have been helping teachers plan and scaffold their lessons, backmapping from the assessments. Their students don’t just need to meet annual growth targets. They need to catch up to perform at and beyond their grade level. This requires that teachers know the progression of the math in Eureka Math and how to differentiate.
What have been the benefits—to you personally and to your district?
Great Minds has a growth mindset: It encourages its Fellows to continuously learn and grow our instructional practices. With this mindset, there’s no end to learning about math content. Learning the PD sessions and talking to the writers, I’ve gained an in-depth understanding of math standards, strategies, and representations.
I want to create a ripple effect, passing on knowledge to teachers and principals, who can then pass it on to their students. I think participants in the PD workshops appreciate that the learning is coming from a teacher who also has struggled and succeeded. At our schools, teachers and students were frustrated at the beginning of the year because of the rigor. Many were even math phobic, but a lot are now feeling like mathematicians. It’s been a total culture change.
Can you say more about the “ripple effect”?
One exciting project is that we’re writing Eureka Math Intervention Pathways for Kindergarten through Grade 5, helping identify lessons that can fill holes, so that more students can be successful at grade level. And last spring, we reorganized all the assessments into a different structure to match PARCC’s summative assessments. We needed to make sure that some of the content was accessible for all students. It’s not perfect, but we have seen improvement in what students know and can do. Each day we do a little better to meet our students’ and teachers’ needs and to improve our implementation of Eureka Math. We are always willing to share with other Eureka schools!
What would you say to a teacher who is considering applying to become a Fellow?
It’s such an incredible opportunity to learn and grow professionally and personally! The support from Great Minds is amazing. It’s all about the ripple effect and sharing the wealth to make sure all students have access to quality math and a pathway to college and career choices.