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July 30, 2014

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Learning to teach:

End of semester a reality check for students

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Nicky Fuchs / Special to the Home News

Amanda Wright works on her daily assignment in here fourth period Algebra 2 class, taught by Josh Adams, at Green Valley High School. Amanda has been working hard the entire semester to pull up her grades in the class.

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New Green Valley High School teacher Josh Adams makes his way through the classroom during his fifth period Applied Algebra IB class to help students with questions in preparation for a quiz.

Learning to teach

The Home News is following Josh Adams during his first year as a full-time teacher. This is the fourth story in an occasional series.

The first semester of the school-year ended Friday, and many high school students have come to the realization that maybe they shouldn't have slacked off quite so much the first couple of months.

Josh Adams is a first-year teacher at Green Valley High School, teaching computer science, applied algebra 1 and algebra 2. At one point, close to half of his students were failing or in danger of doing so, he said.

As the weeks whittled away and those grades came closer to being a permanent mark on the students' records, many of the students and parents were starting to realize there wasn't much time to bring up their grades, if they intended to at all, he said.

"I'm getting more e-mails from parents," Adams said. "I love it. I love getting e-mails from parents. I get to tell them where their student is at, and we can talk about where they want to be. But they start to realize that hey, maybe three weeks ago, they would have had a better shot at this."

Ryan Meyer, 15, a student in Josh Adams' applied algebra class 1 at Green Valley High School, came to that realization shortly before winter break. With only a couple of weeks left, he was up to an average C, from the previously failing F, he said.

His parents were able to provide him with a lot of motivation, he said. At almost 16, he knew he wouldn't be able to get his license if his grades weren't better, and being grounded would have been in his future.

Before that could happen, Meyer decided to start doing his homework and putting a bit more effort into tests and quizzes.

"I just didn't do it or do it as well before," he said. "It was easy when I started."

Meyer said making that effort had been difficult, because math is one of the few classes he has that requires regular homework. Adams often provides time at the end of the class to begin the work, though, so when Meyer decided to take advantage of that, his grade skyrocketed, he said.

Adams has been thrilled with Meyer's progress, but seeing the number of students in trouble can be frustrating, he said, especially after everything he does to try to help them. Adams has continued to provide them with opportunities and doesn't dwell on where they could be if only they'd do their homework or go over the test reviews beforehand.

Not all students need a big push at the end, though. Adams said many of his students have been able to maintain at least the average.

Shayatta Carter, 16, is one of those students. Some of the class clowns in her applied algebra 1 class can be distracting, she said, but she tries to maintain her focus despite her peers goofing off.

Her mother is taking college classes, which has helped, she said.

Now, they will spend time together working on homework.

Seeing the difference in high school students has been an eye-opener, Adams said. Between allowing students to redo their homework and providing test review sheets that are basically the test with different numbers, he thought it would be easy for his students to stay average or above.

He's concerned about the students who aren't doing that, because, in math, if students don't master the first half, the second half will be extremely difficult, Adams said.

More than the grade a student receives, it's that mastery that concerns him.

"To me, learning is more important than credits," he said.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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