Carpenter innovates with video lessons at JHS
Kimberly Carpenter is no stranger to remote learning, a tool being utilized by some school districts around the country with the coronavirus pandemic. The chair of the Jamestown High School Math Department has been using a “flipped classroom” approach to teaching during the last three years. She said she learned about flipped classrooms at a state conference.
As a teacher, she said it was challenging to send students home with a math assignment that parents couldn’t help with.
“It’s changed so much over the years (the curriculum) that parents weren’t familiar with what we were doing and couldn’t offer the support the kids needed,” she said.
So Carpenter began creating video lessons that the students could watch at home.
“All of my lectures that I would normally have done during the class time are now recorded and so the kids can watch all my lessons outside of the classroom,” she said. “And then when they’re in the classroom I can devote the time to working on practice problems or these projects that we do.”
The videos are from 10 to 20 minutes, she said, depending on what material is covered.
“A lot of kids really like that (having video lessons) because they can stop it and rewind it,” she said. “Or if they miss school one day, well, all my lessons are still recorded so they can still see what would have taken place if they had been here.”
Carpenter said she hasn’t had any problems with students having access to the videos. They can watch them on a cellphone or computer before, during or after class.
“Of course, with everything you try, there’s pros and cons,” she said. “But for what I’m getting out of it, I feel it’s working better for me than what I was doing. I think it’s more efficient because I get to spend a lot more one-on-one with kids instead of just standing in front of the whole class lecturing.”
Carpenter is a state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. She was recommended for the honor last spring by JHS Principal Adam Gehlhar, who said in his nomination, “Her experience, curriculum development, and passion for reaching every child is unparalleled in our school.”
Gehlhar said she advocates for all students, is an effective teacher leader and makes student-centered decisions.
“To be recommended for it was really exciting and then to find out I was a state finalist I was just humbled to know that they really thought what I do is that great,” Carpenter said, “because I’m doing what I love to do and so to be recognized for what you love doing is kind of a cool feeling.”
Always wanted to teach
Carpenter is in her 28th year of teaching at JHS. She leads three classes, Algebra I for primarily freshmen, MTSS Math Flex Class, which provides extra support for students, and the Mathematical Thinking and Design Lab, for juniors and seniors. In the summer, Carpenter said she teaches credit recovery for students who fall behind or fail in math to help them recover the credits.
She said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, from the time she was a kindergartner in Carrington, North Dakota. From there, it was simply a matter of what subject she would eventually choose to teach.
“Math was a subject I had to work at to figure out but once I figured it out, I was like, ‘I love it,’ so that was the one I wanted to do,” she said.
She said she really enjoys teaching algebra and what she likes the most is that she had to work hard to learn math. That’s what she wants to show students, that sometimes you have to work hard and persevere to learn it.
“I love being with kids,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. I think one of the things that I enjoy the most is when a kid struggles and then they figure it out, I really enjoy that because it’s so rewarding to me that I’ve helped somebody to figure out how to do the math.”
The classes are challenging, she said, noting a class once taught to juniors is now taught to freshmen.
“The material is much more difficult,” she said. “But we’re trying to incorporate a lot more STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education with it. Ways where kids can see how this is going to actually apply to the real world when they leave the school. We try to do a lot more collaborative group projects or even (students) just working with partners so kids learn how to communicate and collaborate with each other because that’s one of those 21st century skills they’re going to need to know.”
Carpenter said she works to integrate STEM into her classroom.
“I use a lot of the engineering design process in my Mathematical Thinking and Design Lab class,” she said. “That process is the same process that you would use in almost any work situation that kids would be in - where you have to do your brainstorming, your researching, come up with your plan, and then you might have to revise your plan and test it, make sure it works, and then finalize everything until you get to the final project.”
The students in that class were to decide on their blueprint for a free little library, and Carpenter is hoping that eventually five of them will be distributed in Jamestown. Free little libraries are small structures that contain donated books for the community to enjoy. Math figures into the real-world project and the students were to collaborate with James Valley Career and Technology Students with helping get supplies ready for the projects, she said.
“There isn’t a textbook for that class,” Carpenter said. “We have to figure out how can we incorporate the math that we’re teaching into what’s in the real world. That class is really stressing that engineering design process where you think you’ve got a plan but you’ve got to research, test it, revise it, all that good stuff to make sure that it ends up being a good one at the end.”
Carpenter said technology has changed teaching because there are apps out there that students can use to solve the problems for them. She said it is a challenge to get them motivated to learn how to do it manually for themselves and then use the technology tools to make sure they’re doing things correctly.
“The standards are a lot more difficult than they used to be so we’re really trying to offer support for kids to make sure that everybody is successful," she said. "We don’t all learn at the same speed and so it’s important for kids to know that it’s OK if we have to work a little bit longer or harder on something to get it figured out.”