Mindy Roper knows long division, fractions and geometry can be daunting for fourth grade students. During seventeen years at Barstow, she’s developed strategies that increase success and confidence among even the most dubious learners.
“Math can be hard, especially when we’re working above the grade level like we do at Barstow,” she said. “Learning really needs to be fun.”
In Mindy Roper’s classroom, that might mean dressing up as characters from “A Wrinkle in Time” and applying the book’s science fiction concepts to real world math. It might mean combining a love of sports with probability and prediction on Super Bowl Day. Or it might mean searching for the latest trends in gaming to teach tough concepts.
“The kids were having a hard time with mixed numbers, so we played a new game in my classroom this week. Afterwards, a student came up to me and said, ‘I finally get it.’ I give them lots of opportunities to get it.”
ROPER RECEIVES BETSI BROOKS KRUMM AWARD
Roper’s special combination of fun and strong academics earned her the 2018 Betsi Brooks Krumm Faculty Award, given each year in memory of the 1990 Barstow alumna and beloved teacher who passed away in 2003. The award honors an educator who provides enthusiastic support for students and the school community. Recipients receive a no-strings-attached financial award from the Endowed Fund established by Betsi's family and friends. President and Head of School Shane Foster and Dr. Berent Krumm, Betsi’s husband, presented Roper with the award on Monday, April 30.
“Her classroom culture has been masterfully cultivated to reward students taking risks, and to enjoy learning while challenging them to think deeply and problem solve,” Foster said. “Diverse opportunities are created to put students newly developed skills into practice with real-world, hands-on activities. Outside the doors of the classroom, the students are encouraged to develop their creative leadership skills through the recipient’s energetic and enthusiastic guidance.”
As the sponsor of the grade 4 math club, Roper welcomes students of all skill levels to practice problem solving once a week before school.
“I am adamant that math club is for everybody, whether you’re great at math or not, because listening to people solve problems is how you get better. For kids who’ve come to math club every week all year long, their confidence has risen and their love of math has grown and that’s what’s important.”
She also sponsors lower school student council, a group that presents Friday Forums, sponsors special days once a semester and participates in leadership and service projects.
“You get to see kids in different kinds of ways, in new roles. To watch how these kids develop confidence and personality is incredible. One of the great things about Barstow to me is that you get to watch your students grow up.”
KINDNESS AND FRIENDSHIP IN FOURTH GRADE AND BEYOND
“Good morning, friends.”
That’s how Roper often greets her students, as they walk through her classroom door under one brightly colored word.
“I’ve always had the word KINDNESS on my wall, and whenever a situation arises, I point it out and remind students that it’s what’s most important. I remember that my best friends today are the friends I had in fourth and fifth grade, Roper said. “I guess my students become friends, too, if we start the year giving them boundaries and promise to have lots of fun while observing rules and knowing how to behave.”
Roper’s teaching equation can be summed up as positive reinforcement plus plenty of teaching time and one-on-one work with every student. It equals a teacher who, in the spirit of Betsi Brooks Krumm, shows a steadfast desire to see students succeed and who makes unparalleled contributions to the school community.