Emily Dickerson fosters curiosity, critical thinking skills, and a growth mindset through real-world applications of math. Her algebra students at Texas’ Grand Prairie High School (GPHS) explore exponential functions by studying transmission patterns of COVID-19. When she taught geometry, her students learned to find the midpoint between two points on a coordinate plane by looking at a map of Grand Prairie and calculating the center between the two closest grocery stores. The lesson continued beyond math as the class discussed the concept of “food deserts” and how they might use their findings to advocate to city officials for construction of a community garden or grocery store. Dickerson’s classroom mantra is “Be the change,” encouraging students to make choices each day that will have a positive impact on not only their own futures, but the lives of those around them.
Dickerson creates an inclusive and respectful environment where student data informs every instructional decision. She is never afraid to try new things, adjusting as she discerns student needs. Hoping to improve student performance, Dickerson instituted small group instruction in Algebra I several years ago. By the end of the 2019-20 school year, students were showing tremendous growth, and Dickerson introduced the strategy to the rest of her team. Grand Prairie partners with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), and Dickerson served as a TAP mentor teacher. Now the math department chair, Dickerson turns department meetings into an extension of her classroom, building in activities she hopes colleagues will use with their own classes. During the pandemic, she modeled the use of breakout rooms to raise teachers’ comfort levels with virtual instruction and shared strategies for building relationships during online learning. Dickerson works with student teachers, mentors new educators, serves on the district math leadership team, and leads professional development for the building and district.
Dickerson is on the GPHS site team for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a program that helps build college readiness and increase opportunities for historically underrepresented student communities. To raise the program’s profile and expand the impact of its college-going culture across the campus, Dickerson and colleagues created the “My AVID Is Your AVID” buddy system, encouraging 11th graders in AVID to share learning strategies with their peers. Equity is an important focus of Dickerson’s practice. She is part of the committee that advocates for culturally relevant teaching, tackling issues on how to deliver instruction to the school’s diverse student body. Dickerson partnered with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity to learn about equitable access to STEM opportunities.
Dickerson earned a bachelor’s in business in 2013 from Baylor University and a master’s in school leadership in 2020 from Southern Methodist University.
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