Eighth grade students are always buzzing around Marissa McCarthy’s math classroom at Shanahan Middle School, engaging in real-life lessons and navigating their way through rigorous and relevant curriculum. A former sixth grade math teacher, McCarthy’s impactful instructional strategies have contributed in large part to Shanahan’s high performance. She utilizes project-based learning (PBL) and differentiates instruction to strengthen student engagement. Students can be seen in small groups and rotating math stations, focusing on particular areas of need determined by pre-assessment data. Striving to make math fun for students, McCarthy encourages classroom collaboration and spends time outside of school hours providing extra assistance. She organizes her team’s annual PBL Olympics, where classes compete against each other in challenges targeting different core content areas. One of McCarthy’s previous math activities led students to connect a tangible and realistic activity — such as mixing paint — to mathematical ratios. In pairs, students worked to solve the ratio problems, then mixed paint based on their solutions. Together, they celebrated their success by creating a class banner using all of the newly mixed paints.
Keeping her eye on the big picture, McCarthy consistently discovers new ways to take her instruction to the next level and values the opportunity to test new strategies in the classroom, including several outlined in Peter Liljedahl’s book, “Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics,” which the math department covered in a book study. Before her move to eighth grade, McCarthy attended a summer conference in Atlanta to fully immerse herself in the algebraic curriculum she would soon be teaching. A skilled problem-solver herself, McCarthy serves as Shanahan’s technology chair and organizes school Chromebooks, orders new technology, and provides technical support and professional development for her colleagues. Additionally, she is a valued member of the school building’s leadership team and contributes her knowledge and professionalism through mentorship of new teachers.
McCarthy’s mentorship extends throughout the student body, as she often helps students enhance their personal growth outside of the classroom and connects with parents and families to build a strong foundation of support for each student.
McCarthy earned a Bachelor of Science in education from Bowling Green State University in 2008 and a Master of Science in education from the University of South Florida in 2012.
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