Primarily Math | Profiles

Alysia Augustus teaches in her classroom

Alysia Augustus

Primarily Math

First and Second Grades Teacher, Anderson Grove Elementary, Papillion-La Vista School District

Having an impact on just 20 students each year wasn’t enough for Alysia Augustus.

After completing Primarily Math in 2011, Augustus approached her principal, Dr. Anne Harley, at Anderson Grove Elementary in the Papillion-La Vista School District with the idea of being a “math intensive” teacher. After receiving approval from the district and support from the other first- and second-grade teachers, Augustus became the sole math teacher for both the first and second grades.

“Four teachers have first- and second-graders for the subjects they are teaching: two teachers teach reading and writing, one teacher teaches science and social studies, and I teach math,” Augustus said. “This format has allowed me to focus solely on math. I am able to have more time to plan meaningful lessons and more time to reflect on lessons. It has also allowed me to know my students better as mathematicians.”

Augustus also won the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching for Nebraska in mathematics.

The NebraskaMATH partnership with the Papillion-La Vista School District remains strong, as two Cohort 1 teachers (Danielle Inserra and Jane McGill) and one Cohort 2 teacher (Elizabeth Scheppers) continue to serve as full-time mathematics coaches. The other Cohort 2 PLSD teachers, including Augustus, are all designated building math coaches, while remaining in the classroom full time.

In 2012, Augustus was provided with 16 days to work as a building math coach.

“My role as a math coach has allowed me to share the instructional strategies I learned in Primarily Math with the teachers within our building,” she said. “As a coach, I planned, observed, and debriefed lessons with my colleagues. We set goals and discussed meaningful strategies to implement. I also had the opportunity to video-tape and gather data on all our teachers’ questioning strategies and classroom discussions. As a staff, we looked at the data and discussed ways to improve our teaching. Teachers then viewed their video so they could observe themselves teaching.”

Augustus and fellow Cohort 2 participant Kelli Roehrig worked closely in 2012 with UNL’s Dr. Ruth Heaton in a studio project for PLSD and NebraskaMATH. Through this process, she and first-grade teacher Roehrig allowed others to observe them planning, teaching, and reflecting during five different sessions conducted by Heaton.

“After taking part in studio math, I now look at planning lessons differently,” Augustus said. “I have learned the importance of the decisions we make and the impact our questions have on our students’ understanding. Many times, as educators, we get so wrapped up in time and content we rush through the content that impacts our lessons the most.”

Originally from Louisville, Neb., Augustus enjoys fulfilling her childhood dreams of becoming a teacher. She believes all students can be successful in math if they feel comfortable and take risks.

“Students learn a lot from their own mistakes and they need a setting that allows them to make mistakes so they can work through the learning process,” she said. “I try to make my classroom a safe place for students to share their thoughts by controlling my facial expressions and resisting the urge to tell students when they are right and wrong. Instead, I want the students to examine one another’s work and decide when they agree and disagree. Teachers can support and provide strategies, but we are not the superheroes who have to fly in and save the day if they are struggling with concepts.”