For many people, story problems in math class began with the teacher providing the story, and students having to find the answers.
But Friday morning, Hillsboro Middle School math teacher Stephanie Sinclair gave her eighth-grade class a pair of equations and had them write stories to go with the equations, as well as graphing the lines of the equations and making a chart.
To go with the equation of Y = -1X + 7, one group of students suggested someone who began a week with $7 and spent $1 each day to buy a candy bar. The equation would show how much money, Y, would be left after X number of days.
Later in the class, students worked on skills review to polish what they had learned during the week and keep skills from previous chapters fresh. During the skills review, Sinclair went around the class, assisting students when they had trouble.
In between, she took a minute to ask the boys how their football game went the night before, finding the positives in what they did, as well as telling the boys how the volleyball team did.
No single person or event inspired Sinclair to become a teacher, she said. But she said she had very good teachers, including her mother, when she was growing up, which helped develop her interest in teaching. While she was in high school, she also decided it could be fun to coach school sports.
She knew she wanted to teach at the upper levels of elementary and middle school, and began as a fifth-grade teacher. One year there was a big class advancing to sixth grade, so big that another sixth-grade teacher was needed, so she moved to sixth grade. The same process repeated when the class advanced to seventh grade, and Sinclair moved to teaching middle school, where she has been ever since.
HMS Principal Greg Brown only has to point to the test scores of Sinclair’s students to show that her methods are successful.
“Last spring, over 85 percent of Mrs. Sinclair’s seventh and eighth graders performed above grade level on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) Test,” he said. “Over 52 percent of these same students performed at the ‘exemplary’ level on the Kansas Math Assessment.”
He said Sinclair works hard to help all of her students, evidenced by her recognition as a leader in development of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support programs. She was a presenter at the Kansas MTSS conference in Wichita, and after her presentation, a nationally known presenter requested data about the improvement of Sinclair’s tiered instruction math students.
Sinclair started her teaching career in Hillsboro in the 1988-89 school year and has been in the school system ever since. She said Hillsboro is a great place to teach, because there is a lot of support from parents and the community.
She received her bachelor’s degree from Tabor College and her master’s degree from Emporia State University.
Sinclair and her husband, Roger, have two children in high school, junior Lucas and freshman Julie.