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Black History Month
2022 Honoree

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Kerry Coote

Kerry Coote

Upper Elementary Mathematics Specialist

Trinity School

I am an upper elementary mathematics specialist at Trinity School in Atlanta, Georgia, a private elementary school that serves children age three through Sixth Grade. Under the guidance of Trinity’s director of teaching and learning, I utilize research-based best practices to lead the vision and mission of numeracy in grades 2 – 6, supporting both educators and students.

My job is at the intersection of curriculum development, assessment, and instruction. I work closely with teachers to evaluate and provide feedback on their teaching strategies, helping guide their instructional practices and beliefs about how students learn and interact with mathematics. Additionally, I work with students to grow their confidence in mathematics, deepening their numeracy knowledge and skills. I love my work. It gives me great joy to see the “light bulb moments,” when students discover the joy and beauty in math and teachers recognize that students come to the table with far more knowledge than we often allow them to share.

I have always had a love for mathematics. Growing up in Jamaica, my childhood dream was to be an airline pilot, which led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electronics and physics from the University of the West Indies before moving to Canada. It was my husband, Howard, who encouraged me to get into the field of education. Before I joined him in Atlanta in 2008, Howard saw my passion for working with young children and suggested that I enter an education program. After earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Kennesaw State University, I was offered a teaching position at Trinity School in 2012. After seeing how my second-grade students engaged with mathematics, my love of the discipline was renewed, and I realized that I had a passion for teaching mathematics to anyone who would learn with me. I found ways to share my passion for the subject through early morning programs, summer camps, and after-school programs. I wanted children all around me to experience the joy I receive from solving a great puzzle and from making sense of challenging tasks, and I wanted my colleagues to experience the joy I feel when teaching mathematics. It is with this drive that I pursued and successfully completed a Masters in Teaching Mathematics from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

While at Mount Holyoke, I learned valuable lessons about the ways students develop mathematical ideas over time, that would later guide all the decisions I made in my role as a mathematics specialist. I believe that learning should be the focus of any teaching institution. I keep that at the forefront of all I do as I partner with teachers. I continually research and evaluate best practices in mathematics to help the teachers I work with remain at the forefront of numeracy and mathematics teaching and to help teachers understand the “why” behind the changes that occur in mathematics curriculum and instructional practices. One of my greatest accomplishments is helping teachers shift their mindset about the role they play in the math classroom with their students. Teachers are facilitators of learning and not givers of knowledge. In working closely with teachers, I have helped them see that students already come to the classroom with knowledge and their role is to listen to understand so that they can deepen each student’s learning through a variety of instructional tasks.

I have been blessed to have the opportunity of affecting change each day. I love that teachers are discovering that their students do know more than they allow them to share. I am happy that teachers are growing in their own abilities as math learners and making instructional shifts that will benefit all their students.

The focus on deep learning in numeracy calls for our students to demonstrate flexibility, conceptual understanding, and algebraic reasoning across all grade levels. I consistently build strong relationships with students by creating a safe classroom space for productive struggle and mistake-making. I want ALL my students to see themselves as mathematicians eliminating labels such as “ I am good” or “I am bad” at math. I want my students to have positive math identities and I know that math can be part of their future whether they choose to pursue a career in the discipline or not. I lead with the mantra that “We are ALL mathematicians!”

My husband, Howard, and my two girls, Emma and Morgan, are my biggest cheerleaders. Howard has always been steadfast in his belief in me. He encourages me to go for what I want, and he supports every decision I make to continue learning. I have been fortunate to be part of my girls’ mathematical journey. They are both students at Trinity and I pride myself on watching the joy they experience as they interact with mathematical ideas every day.

I am truly grateful for my personal and professional journey. I find ways to learn from everyone I meet. I believe that people assess situations based on how they will be affected by them, and meeting people (both adults and children) where they are is important in my growth as an individual. I know that fear can often cripple an individual – I say do not let fear get in the way of what you want to achieve. Be brave and walk in your power. As you think about what you would like to do whether in the classroom with students or elsewhere, think about your professional values. Create a mission and vision for your endeavors and make sure they both align and address your core objectives. Let this focus on your present and your future be your guiding light. Seek opportunities to continue learning and growing. Be reflective and welcome feedback. And, above all, find ways to support others on their journey to success. It is through mentoring others that I have grown the most in my field.