Teacher Spotlight: Michaela Overby

Overby Michaela
Michaela Overby

Kindergarten Teacher:
G. Stanley Hall Elementary, Papillion-La Vista School District

For kindergarten teacher Michaela Overby, Primarily Math provides her with a “math community” that not only builds on the collaborative nature of her school and district, but also extends beyond those relationships.

Overby additionally benefits from having Jane McGill, a participant in the first cohort of Primarily Math in 2009, as the math coach for her building, G. Stanley Hall Elementary in Papillion-La Vista Community Schools.

“The goal for teachers is always to be better. If your kids are already doing well, then the question becomes, what can we do to help them have even more success? Coaches are in our schools to help us do this,” Overby said. “They will co-teach a lesson, help you with strategies you are working on, and ultimately help you become an even better teacher. I love working with our math and literacy coaches.”

The Beatrice, Nebraska, native said the ability to immediately implement what she learned from Primarily Math into her classroom shows her newfound confidence in teaching math. After the first summer, she began thinking about the vocabulary she uses and stopped teaching her students “rules that expire.” She also began using bar diagrams to teach story problems.

Throughout the fall and spring classes, Overby conducted a child study and was able to figure out where each child was on their learning trajectory and give them what they needed to move further along the trajectory. Overby said she saw amazing results from both the child study and family projects. After the last two summer classes, Overby has been implementing lessons that are “backward gradual release.”

“I let students explore and find connections, they tell me their findings, and finally I teach,” said Overby, who has been teaching for seven years. “This gives students accountability and responsibility of teaching and learning our mathematics. I am focusing on keeping the cognitive demand high when students are learning math. Just having them solve and memorize problems is not enough. They need to be explaining and understanding it as well.”

The experience of Primarily Math reminded her how hard math can be and to have perseverance. She is better able to relate to the struggles her students have during math.

"I now understand the rationale behind why I am teaching the way I am, and I am able to share this with others,” Overby said.

Overby, who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with majors in elementary education and psychology, said the program is the best professional choice she has made: "The change Primarily Math has made in myself as a mathematician, a learner of math, and a teacher of math truly can’t be put into words. It was the best thing I have done for myself as a teacher and my students.”