Kelsey Cooper’s classroom is like Grand Central Station – a beehive of productive activity where learning goals are evident, and students buzz with enthusiasm and confidence. Cooper, who teaches eighth grade math at Discovery Middle School in Madison, Alabama, covers her walls with real-world math activities and problems ready for solving.
Students cluster in small learning groups with peers, learning to work as a team and presenting evidence to support their ideas in an environment that supports questioning and promotes risk-taking. They create blueprints for water parks when learning about linear equations and the Pythagorean Theorem, design city maps to demonstrate understanding of parallel lines cut by a transversal, and write stories whose characters represent shifts in quadratic equations.
Cooper holds high expectations, differentiates her instruction to meet the needs of every learner, and uncovers the potential in all of her students. Even the most reluctant learners gain the confidence to raise their hands in class, and many of Cooper’s students go on to challenge themselves with advanced math classes in high school.
Cooper, who started at Discovery Middle School as a student teacher, has led the school’s math department for three years and is highly respected by her colleagues. She became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2019 and now mentors her colleagues going through the certification process. Cooper takes a team approach to professional learning, looking for and supporting her colleagues’ strengths. In addition to her work in the classroom, she coaches softball, sponsors several clubs, and works with student teachers.
During the pandemic, Cooper’s ease with technology and devotion to the well-being of both students and colleagues made her invaluable. Discovery moved among virtual, hybrid and in-person instruction during the 2020-21 school year, while Cooper helped the math department with instructional pacing, creating a seamless transition for students who had to quarantine.
She used virtual breakout rooms to maintain student collaboration and joined daily one-on-one online visits with students, for both math assistance and social-emotional check-ins. Cooper reached out to parents daily during the pandemic to make sure families were up to date on their students’ work. The relationships Cooper builds with pupils and families are genuine and longstanding. When students leave her classroom, she gives each a handwritten letter with a return address, so they can always reach her if they need her.
Cooper earned a bachelor’s in 2015 from Athens State University and is currently working on a master’s in instructional leadership from the University of West Alabama.
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