By RENEE FITE
Mathematics can be a challenge to master if a student hasn’t learned the basics..
With a solid foundation, math can be interesting, amazing and a tool to understanding how everything in the universe works.
Woodall sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are discovering mathematics doesn’t have to be difficult and confusing.
Connie Sisco has been making math understandable for more than a decade.
“I first make sure my classroom has a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, where my students are not afraid to ask questions or to ask for help,” Sisco said. “In fact, I tell them one of their most important jobs is to ask for help when they don’t understand something, and to keep asking for help until they do understand.”
Sisco said it’s also important for students to realize it’s OK to not get answers right the first time.
“I want them to feel free to experiment and make mistakes until they figure out what works,” Sisco said. “We like to work hard and have fun at the same time.”
After teaching math at the middle school-level for 12 years, the most important thing she has learned is how crucial it is for students to know their multiplication facts.
“I mean, have them memorized really well,” she said. “Until I started teaching math, I didn’t really realize how much you use that knowledge in almost all aspects of math. For example, kids who know these facts well will learn how to work with fractions in no time at all.”
Kids who don’t know their multiplication facts will struggle from that point forward, she said.
“I cannot over emphasize how important it is to have a solid foundation on simple addition, subtraction and especially, multiplication facts,” she said.
From the moment students engage her at the doorway, Sisco sets the stage for success.
“As my kids arrive at my class, I try to be at the door to smile at them and greet them by name. I want every student to know that I am happy to see them,” she said.
The kids are why she teaches.
“I love watching them grow and learn and gain confidence in their math abilities,” she said. “I love listening to the students’ explanations on how they found an answer to a math problem. Sometimes, I am just amazed at what thought processes they went through to get to their answer.”
Sisco appreciates her fellow teachers.
“I like the fact that we are all trying to do the best we can for our students. There is always someone who will help out if needed,” she said. “First and foremost Woodall is a great place to teach, because our kids are awesome! Also because everyone at our school, from the school board on down, is dedicated to doing what is best for our kids.”
Sisco said being the eight-grade sponsor along with Nancy Willis is one of her favorite things about her job.
“Since our school goes to eighth grade, that is the kids’ last year with us and it makes it very special to them,” she said. “We get to be part of that, and it gives us a special bond.”
They put together and run the spook house for the fall festival.
“That is something the kids look forward to for years,” she said. “We also get to plan and organize their graduation and class trip,” she said.
When Sisco first was hired, she actually thought she was interviewing for a fourth-grade teaching position, and she was thrilled when told she was being hired to teach math to the upper grades.
“I’ve always loved numbers, and anything to do with math,” Sisco said. “I have always wanted to teach.”
She remembers having a giant chalkboard on a stand she used to “teach” her little brothers, friends, dolls, stuffed animals, anyone who would sit still and listen to her.
She attended Lowrey School as a child, and feels fortunate all of the teachers there had a positive impact on her.
“It was a very small school and my parents were very involved, so it was almost like my teachers were a part of my family,” she said. “The one teacher who really stands out in my mind was my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, Jamie Johnson. What I remember most about her is not what or how she taught; I remember the way she made me feel. She made me feel like I could do anything. She had very high expectations for her students and she wanted us to have high expectations for ourselves.”
A few years later, the Tahlequah High School graduate received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northeastern State University.
She believes teachers should love what they do, care about their students and have patience.
“Smile and love what you do,” she said. “Keep in mind, that what you say and do can have a lasting impact on the children you teach.”
Sisco and husband Terry have three children. The eldest son, Mitchell and his wife Lauren are both in the military, and have a daughter, Lily, who will be two in December.
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