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Dedicated Educator Pays It Forward

When Kenneth Brantley was asked to teach Advanced Placement® statistics at Oklahoma’s Pauls Valley High School last year, he was reluctant to accept the role. Though he had several years of experience successfully teaching calculus, he had never taught a statistics class. It was the first year the course was being offered at Pauls Valley, which was expanding AP® course offerings as it kicked off its first year of NMSI’s College Readiness Program.
 
With reservations, Kenneth decided to take on the new teaching challenge. Soon after, he attended a NMSI AP Summer Institute — four days of intensive course-specific training designed to prepare new teachers for the rigors of the AP curriculum, while providing more experienced teachers with new teaching strategies and resources. But with little background knowledge of statistics, Kenneth felt ill-equipped to get the most out of training — until he met NMSI’s Statistics Content Specialist, Curtis Brown*.
 
“I was struggling with some of the concepts, and Curtis sat right by me and said, ‘OK, here’s how you do this,” he said.
 
That was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that continued throughout the school year as Kenneth guided his four AP statistics students through territory that was new for all of them.  A former statistics teacher himself, Curtis was always on hand to provide ongoing encouragement and support.
 
“I knew where he was coming from and I knew the kinds of questions that were coming. I had gone through the same thing when I was starting out and was fortunate enough to have had a mentor who invested a lot in me. I could call her and say, ‘OK, how do I teach my kids this?’,” Curtis said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to return the favor, to pay it forward.”
 
This kind of personalized coaching and support is one of many ways NMSI’s College Readiness Program is helping teachers continually improve their knowledge and practice. For Kenneth Brantley, the mentorship has been invaluable. Whenever he had a question or a problem his students couldn’t work through, he would email Curtis.
 
“When teachers email me with questions, I try to answer as quickly as possible,” Curtis said. “They may be sitting with a room full of kids who can’t move on to the next concept until they get past their particular stumbling block.”
 
Kenneth worried at times that he was taking advantage of Curtis’ generosity of time and help, but at NMSI’s mock exam reading this past spring, he met several other teachers who were also benefitting from Curtis’ wisdom and experience.
 
“I was doing my job,” Curtis said. “And I would always say that in my emails to teachers: It’s my job, I’m paid to do this, but I love it as well. So, don’t ever feel like you can’t reach out.’”
 
Just a few weeks ago, after all of his students had finished their AP statistics exam, Kenneth reached out to say ‘thank you’ again. He looked over all the emails he and Curtis had exchanged and counted 113 responses from Curtis over the course of the year.
 
“Curtis went above and beyond,” Kenneth said. “My students really felt like he was part of our class.”
 
Kenneth recently received the results of his students’ AP exams. Three out of four of the kids he taught earned qualifying scores; one of them achieved the highest score possible. As he looks forward to teaching AP statistics again next year, Kenneth credits Curtis with much of his students’ success.
 
“It would have been a long year without Curtis. I’m so grateful to have had his help,” he said, “and I feel a whole lot more confident about teaching the course next year.”
 

*A Special Note About Curtis
Over the past four years, Curtis has mentored thousands of teachers like Kenneth Brantley at schools across the country, helping them coach their students to new academic heights. Just as he challenged his mentees to continuously better themselves and their students, Curtis has decided to take the next step in his already successful career. Although we are sad that this next step has taken him away from NMSI, we are grateful for having worked with such an extraordinarily committed and passionate educator. He has inspired all of us and we are truly excited to see the great things he will continue to do.


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