Laura Brogdon, a math teacher at Shawnee Mission West High School, didn’t have any reason to believe it wasn’t business as usual when she attended a staff meeting at her school recently.
Little did she know that at the meeting she would be presented with the Educating Excellence Award from Perceptive Software and the University of Kansas School of Engineering.
“It never crossed my mind that someone was getting an award,” said Brogdon. “I just thought it was a normal meeting.”
The high school geometry teacher wasn’t even aware that she had been nominated for the award, which honors outstanding teachers of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in the Kansas City area. As an award recipient, Brogdon won a personal printer and a $1,500 cash prize. Brogdon said she’ll use the money to help pay for tuition as she works toward her doctorate in educational administration at the University of Kansas.
Brogdon, who has taught for the last five years at Shawnee Mission West High School, was familiar with the Educating Excellence Award but was unaware that she was being considered for it.
Turns out, she had quite a fan base. Brogdon was nominated for the award by a group of administrators, counselors, math teacher colleagues, students and parents. They wrote letters praising Brogdon for building a strong rapport with her students and for bringing a passion to her subject matter.
She also was praised for her use of a unique teaching method called the “flipped” classroom. In this concept, Brogdon flips the time spent in class with the time spent at home.
Instead of lecturing in class, Brogdon videotapes her lessons for students to watch at home. Then the homework is completed in class where students have the ability to work in partners, groups or one-on-one with the teacher. This way students are able to ask questions of Brogdon when they have trouble with a problem on the assignment. It’s especially helpful for students whose parents may not be able to help them with geometry homework at home.
“In a traditional classroom, the teacher only says something once and students only hear it once,” said Brogdon. “But on video, the student has the option to pause, rewind and replay as often as needed.”
Brogdon said the technique allows teachers to differentiate to all levels of students. She said some students will grasp the concepts quickly while others may need more time to work one-on-one with the teacher in class in order to comprehend the material.
“It’s beneficial to students because it allows them to learn at their own speed and it caters to their level,” Brogdon said. “The learners who are at a higher level may only have to watch the video once and then come in and do a challenge worksheet. And students who struggle have the benefit of watching the video multiple times and then getting one-on-one support with the teacher in the classroom.”
Brogdon first learned about the approach at a Shawnee Mission School District in-service day in July 2013. Intrigued by the idea, she set out to research it herself and ended up implementing the teaching method that August.
Brogdon said she has seen some test score improvement with the flipped classroom. Part of the reason that she’s able to offer the cutting-edge teaching style is that all high school students in the Shawnee Mission School District are issued their own laptop.
So far, the student reaction to the technique classroom has been positive.
“They like it, they really do,” said Brogdon. “They are more enthusiastic about math and they feel more confident about math.”