Teacher Spotlight: Jennifer Jones and Judy Stukenholtz

Stukenholtz Judy And Jones Jennifer
Jennifer Jones and Judy Stukenholtz

Second-Grade Teacher:
Gretna Elementary (Jennifer Jones)

Kindergarten Teacher:
Wahoo Elementary (Judy Stukenholtz)

Teachers explain the benefits of Primarily Math

Focusing on the process and not just on the end result is the foundation on which Primarily Math is built. Teachers delve into gaining a deeper understanding of their mathematical and pedagogical knowledge for teaching and further examine their attitudes and beliefs about mathematics. For nearly all participants, the experience positively impacts their teaching and causes them to think differently about mathematics instruction.

“Although our math curriculum is scripted, I now understand how to incorporate many other instructional strategies into my lessons, such as math talk,” said Judy Stukenholtz, a kindergarten teacher at Wahoo Elementary. “The strategies that I learned while taking Primarily Math have definitely strengthened my confidence in knowing math and teaching math. It also gave me ways to encourage my team to teach math in different ways.”

Strategies learned through the program lead directly to inspiring teachers to make changes in their classrooms.

“When I first started teaching, I felt pulled to teach in a way that was product-based, and I lacked the deeper mathematical understanding that I wanted for my students,” said Jennifer Jones, a second-grade teacher at Gretna Elementary. “After Primarily Math, my math lessons now focus on the process, not necessarily the product. My students’ understanding of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ have become so much more important to them, not only in their mathematical learning, but also in their learning in general.”

With 40 hours of face-to-face instruction in one week, Primarily Math can be an intense experience. However, teachers consistently report that the program is rewarding and worth the effort.

“While they were the most challenging graduate-level classes I have ever taken, it was worth every bit of the struggle. It will change how you think, teach, and present mathematical learning to both students and adults,” said Jones, who has been teaching at Gretna Public Schools since 2010.

Veteran teacher Stukenholtz said her peers asked why she was doing Primarily Math when she probably didn’t need to, after teaching for 17 years in public school and 20 years in a preschool. The Gordon, Nebraska, native found that she did need to.

“It inspired me to be a better teacher, not only in math, but in everything else that I do,” Stukenholtz said. “If you want to build your self-worth and be proud of what you do every day, you need to grow and learn every day. That’s why all primary grade teachers should participate in Primarily Math.”

Even in a kindergarten classroom, Stukenholtz said she could apply what she learned from Primarily Math every day.

“The math talk and understanding number-ness has been so much fun to use with my students. After re-learning about trajectories and building number sense, I think about how I can do that in every lesson,” Stukenholtz said. “When we were asked to develop quizzes for our L to J charting, we used ten-frames and tested on students’ abilities to subitize numbers. It has helped so much to know the research behind the reasoning.”

Jones agreed that lessons on how to strengthen number-sense understanding were one of her favorite parts of Primarily Math. Another favorite part of the program was working closely with a cohort and learning how teachers can approach mathematics in different ways and with different insights, Jones added.

Primarily Math helps teachers to become more confident and provides a network of support for teachers as they strive to better reach struggling learners in the primary grades.

“A favorite part of Primarily Math for me was the relationships with the other ‘students’ in my cohort, as well as the instructors that we had,” Stukenholtz said. “I also loved being able to take these strategies and watch my students flourish from them. Amazing!”

- Lindsay Augustyn