By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs July 16, 2012
ESCHENBACH, Germany -- We've come a long way from that one-room country schoolhouse on the prairie. Teaching methods once employed are no longer expedient in nurturing the minds of 21st century students. Education is changing to contend with a global society, and Daniele Massey, a teacher at Vilseck High School, is staying ahead of the game.
"These (students) are going out there to compete against kids from China and Japan," said Massey. "And we have to push them to those same standards. It's a global competition."
To bolster her students' education, Massey, along with fellow algebra teacher Ryan Goodfellow, instituted a flipped mastery classroom -- a relatively new way to educate, which "flips" the lesson plans. On their own time, students watch videos of their teacher explaining each lesson, leaving classroom time open for tutoring, one-on-one guidance and peer group.
"When they take notes on the lectures at home, they can then come into class and put those skills to work," said Massey. "And we are there to answer any questions they might have."
The bottom line -- it's effective. In one year of flipped mastery teaching, exam scores improved by nine percent and the number of failures decreased progressively each quarter.
By implementing these innovate teaching methods Massey has transitioned her students into independent learners. Her teaching style and commitment to the evolving levels of education garnered her the 2013 Bavaria District Teacher of the Year award.
Massey is as energetic as she is enthusiastic. She is one of the few people who is genuinely excited about the subject of math -- and even more excited to teach it. She understands that the rise in technological advances has altered the minds of young people and tailors her lessons accordingly. Students nowadays tend to crave more visual stimulation and multitask with short attention spans, said Massey, adding that military students have a tougher time with constant change and adjustments that all military families must face.
"I'm a military spouse; I've been an FRG leader, I've been through deployment, redeployment, reintegration," said Massey. "I have an empathy level that another teacher may not have as they've never had the opportunity to. I understand what these kids are going through and sometimes it's really tough."
Massey believes that learning cannot take place until the emotional needs of her students are taken care of.
"And teenagers are very emotional people," she said with a wry grin.
But for Massey, tending to the overall needs of each of her students is just part of the job.
"When they need me to be their mom, I can be their mom. I can be their mentor, I can listen, I can be their coach; I can be their teacher and their disciplinarian."
In the end, Massey wants her students to persevere, but conceded that maintaining students' interest in the subject of math is not easy for teachers today.
"I know, it's math," she said, grimacing. "Not the most exciting subject. I try to make it as much fun as I possibly can, but at some point math is math. You just have to get down to it."
Projecting real world issues disguised as algebra problems helps. Interject an equation with a baseball reference or dissect how supply and demand drive ticket prices for a Drake concert and teachers can easily corral the attention of teenagers.
"It has to be meaningful to them," said Massey.
Massey's desire to become a math teacher resonated during her own high school career with the mentorship of two female math teachers.
"They really pushed me and were such positive influences in my life," said Massey, adding that she never had a desire to be anything else but a math teacher.
"At one time I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, but my dad was very opposed to that," she said.