Felicia Casto is schooling the students at Rim Rock Elementary in a new language: she's teaching them to "speak math." As the enrichment teacher at Rim Rock, a pre-K through fifth-grade school in Fruita, Colorado, Casto works with students in grades kindergarten through five weekly, either before school or during the day, and also coaches Rim Rock's teachers. Because of Casto, both students and teachers have embraced a growth mindset, taking on challenges and constantly looking for ways to improve outcomes. And improve they do: most students who work with Casto show a year's growth or more, and the school's reading and math scores rival state averages.
A teacher of teachers, Casto leads weekly professional development sessions at Rim Rock. She has helped create a trusting culture among the staff, encouraging educators to observe in each other’s classrooms and videotape their lessons so Casto can provide feedback. With Casto's coaching, a number of other teachers at Rim Rock and throughout the district have implemented "Number Talks," short daily math-based conversations that help students improve computational fluency. Casto's colleagues credit her with improving their instructional mastery in math, which in turn, benefits their students.
At the district level, Casto is working on a new K-12 math rubric which will impact the district's more than 21,000 students. The district is moving to performance-based learning, and Casto is helping to define mastery, develop common assessments and create a unified curriculum. She immerses herself in the latest research and shares her knowledge freely, driving discussions with colleagues and administrators about the implications for students. Casto also provides guidance and leadership during Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings at Rim Rock, helping grade-level and vertical teams analyze data and develop assessments. She was one of 12 teachers selected as a K-2 Formative Task Reviewer for PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).
Casto gets parents involved in their children's education with schoolwide Family Math Nights, showing parents how to do Investigations, explaining how math is taught at Rim Rock, demonstrating problem-solving techniques and introducing math games families can play during the events and at home. Parents know to stop by Casto's desk in the library to pick up extra math activities and credit her as integral to their students' success.
Casto earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Mesa State College (now known as Colorado Mesa University) in 2004 and a master's in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University in 2009.
"I think as a nation we need to put more money, time and effort into teachers in their first through fifth years. That's when teachers..." (read more)