Students lead the instruction in Nathan Kirsch’s mathematics classroom at Whitehaven High School. Instead of lecturing, Kirsch inspires students to take charge of their own learning. Class often starts with the answer up on the board; students can work backwards to solve the equations. They use technology to examine three-dimensional shapes to further their understanding of geometry and play games to explore new math concepts. Kirsch, who has taught algebra, geometry and AP Calculus, stresses mastery above all else. Students can retake tests and assessments, but only if they attend his tutoring sessions before trying again. Kirsch never lowers his expectations and builds strong relationships that allow him to tap into students’ full potential. They trust and respect him, constantly showering Kirsch with questions about academics and life in general. His methods deliver outstanding results. Kirsch’s students scored in the 99th percentile on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS). The year before he took over the school’s AP Calculus class, not a single student had passed the AP exam; in two years, pass rates rose to 83%.
An accomplished college athlete, Kirsch brings a team mindset to teaching. He constantly shares ideas and practices with colleagues and heads math content on Whitehaven’s instructional leadership team. When the school’s competitive math team needed a coach, Kirsch stepped in without hesitation. He coaches Whitehaven’s track and cross country teams and has helped them soar: Kirsch’s athletes have broken all school records from 800 to 5,000 meters, and the girls’ track team has won two state championships. Outside school, Kirsch coaches middle and long-distance athletes of all ages for the Bluff City Track Club, qualifying many for regional championships and the Junior Olympics.
Kirsch came to Whitehaven through the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR), a nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supports educators for the city’s high-need schools, and has mentored new teachers at both Whitehaven and Hamilton High School. He lives in the community where he teaches in order to build stronger relationships with families and is committed to expanding opportunities for Memphis students. Kirsch spent two summers developing curriculum and teaching at Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics, a summer program for middle school students from under-resourced schools in New York City. Kirsch is currently working with MTR to bring the program to Memphis in 2020, including recruiting math teachers of color from local colleges and universities. The monthlong program will be open to all incoming seventh graders in the district.
Kirsch earned a bachelor’s in mathematics in 2011 from Taylor University and a master’s in education in 2014 from Union University.
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