Thirty high school math teachers in eastern North Carolina recently earned their master’s degrees in education thanks to a unique blend of off campus, face to face and online classes led by East Carolina University faculty.
It was the largest graduating class in the history of the program, which usually only has a few students complete the master’s program for high school mathematics each year, said Dr. Rose Sinicrope, associate professor of mathematics education and a 2017 Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award recipient.
ECU faculty member Rose Sinicrope, left, and master’s graduate Anita Koen celebrate at the departmental graduation on May 6. (Contributed photos)
“Graduate level mathematics courses, which compose almost half the program, are taught face to face and it is very difficult for teachers to get to campus on time to attend classes. In the past, this was the major deterrent for many teachers,” said Sinicrope. “The second deterrent was North Carolina’s elimination of the teacher pay scale increase for graduate degrees in 2013.”
To combat those challenges, ECU faculty in the College of Education and Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences customized an off campus course of study to fit the teachers’ schedules as part of a revision to the undergraduate mathematics education degree program in 2013.
“We continue to work very hard to provide an education of the highest quality that is both affordable and accessible,” said Dr. Grant Hayes, dean of the College of Education. “There’s a critical need for teachers of secondary mathematics in our region and across the state. This is a testament to the hard work and dedicated efforts of our faculty and school partners and I applaud them for this achievement.”
The 30 teachers are from Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Edgecombe, Greene, Nash, Onslow, Pitt and Wayne counties. Twenty-nine teach in public schools while one teaches in private school. Teachers taught their full class loads during the two years of the program.
Graduation student speaker Anita Koen, math teacher at South Central High School and one of 30 high school math teachers from eastern North Carolina who received their master’s degree in education in May.
The largest number, 14, are from Pitt County, and half of those teach at D. H. Conley High School in Greenville. Renea Baker, the mathematics department chair at Conley, encouraged her fellow teachers to participate, Sinicrope said.
Anita Koen, math teacher at South Central High School who was part of the newest MAED graduating class, was instrumental to the program’s success since most classes were held in Koen’s high school classroom, Sinicrope said.
Koen delivered the graduate student address at the departmental graduation on May 6, thanking the ECU professors for support and creating a cohort just for them. “They came to us at South Central to hold class at times that were not convenient to them but were convenient to us,” Koen said.
Sinicrope called the group the “Miracle 30.”
“Few believed that high school mathematics teachers would be willing to invest in their careers without financial support and gain,” Sinicrope said. “Few believed that ECU faculty would be willing to meet teachers at their schools and on their schedules. It was a miracle that not just a few but 30 high school mathematics teachers, who sacrifice personal gain by remaining in the classroom, were willing to sacrifice more because they believe in their students, in themselves, and in ECU.”
Sinicrope said her ECU colleague Dr. Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi coined the term ‘Mathematics Teaching Communities’ as part of the revision to the undergraduate mathematics education program.
“The undergraduate program and the graduate program are connected with a shared vision of transforming high school mathematics for eastern North Carolina students,” Sinicrope said.
-by Crystal Baity