Karen Collins of West Johnston High School has been named Johnston County’s Outstanding Math Teacher of the Year by the N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Each year, school systems nominate the teacher they believe does the most effective job of teaching math.
West Johnston principal Paula Coates, who nominated Collins, said students come back after graduation and tell her how they are thankful they had Collins as a teacher, because she prepared them for college.
“She’s an outstanding teacher, and her students achieve at high levels consistently year in and year out,” Coates said.
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Collins, who teaches math 3 and a year-long Advanced Placement calculus course, said she considered majoring in English because of her love of reading. But math was a harder subject, and she had to work hard at it.
“Eventually, I found that I enjoyed solving problems,” Collins said. “Also, because it was harder for me than English, I feel that helps me understand the issues of students who struggle.”
Collins has taught math for 26 years, 11 of those at West Johnston. She uses innovative techniques in the classroom to engage her students in the critical thinking required to excel in higher math.
“She [Collins] has a program on her computer that mirrors a calculator on the SMART Board,” said senior Melanie Langness. “She takes those problems, puts them into SMART Notebook software and solves them. Afterward, she uploads those notes to her website each day so we can refer back to them when we are doing our homework.
“When I am confused, I just look back over what we did in class and figure it out.”
In the AP class, the goal of students is to pass the AP exam and get college credit. Former student Madison Covey said Collins was integral to her high passing score.
“The AP calculus exam was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” she said. “But she taught us strategies where if we didn’t know the answer, we could still get partial credit.”
Senior Jarrett Spann said Collins’ methods are different from those of any other math teacher he has ever had. “She shows us step by step different ways to solve a problem and lets us choose which is the best way,” he said. “I’m not a math person, but it helps so much.”
Collins is now a candidate for the Rankin Award, which will be presented this fall at the State Mathematics Conference. The award, named in memory of W.W. Rankin, professor of mathematics at Duke University, is the highest honor bestowed by N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics.