Haw Creek: Home to BCS Math Teacher of the Year
Haw Creek: Home to BCS Math Teacher of the Year
Posted on 02/10/2018
Third-grade Haw Creek math students congratulate the BCS Math Teacher of the Year, Ms. Sara McGee.
Third-grade Haw Creek Elementary math students congratulate the BCS Math Teacher of the Year, Ms. Sara McGee.

By: Benjamin Rickert
BCS Communications Department

Third-grade Haw Creek Elementary math teacher Ms. Sara McGee has been named our county Math Teacher of the Year!

Ms. McGee knows how to get her students moving for math. On Thursday morning in her classroom, nestled in a lush Haw Creek valley, students learned about comparing numbers through addition and subtraction, and calculated their differences. Students were on their feet, working in teams, and drawing all over the classroom’s tables with colorful markers. They reasoned out loud with one another, each working to convince their classmates of their plan to solve the day’s math puzzles.

“Math is not just a subject of getting answers, or a system of procedures and rules,” said McGee, whose method maximizes face-to-face interactions. “It is a very beautiful, creative subject that looks for patterns and relationships. If you can help students unlock that part of math, then they are automatically engaged because their curiosity is piqued.”

In her classroom, McGee aims to lead students to be what she described as “actively engaged,” meaning they are curious, thinking, and wanting to learn more on their own. Over time, she has learned to recognize what an actively engaged math student looks like, as each child behaves differently when making connections. For example, some students might be still and contemplate silently, while others might prefer to write in a journal, play a game, build a model, talk to a friend, or collaborate with a group.

“As a staff at Haw Creek, we put the student first,” McGee explained. “When making decisions about our students and school, we think about how to develop a child's social and emotional intelligence alongside of their academic knowledge; how to build strong home-school connections with our families; and how to foster positive peer relationships. We do this because our ultimate goal is to help create responsible, respectful citizens of our community and earth who will make the world a better place.”

Each year, Buncombe County Schools honors an outstanding math teacher in a process involving the NC Department of Public Instruction and the NC Council of Teachers of Mathematics, explained BCS Mathematics Curriculum Specialist Stefanie Buckner. The award alternates between honoring an elementary (K-6) and middle or high school (6-12) teacher with nominations accepted each spring. Nominees then complete “reflection portfolios” which are reviewed by the math curriculum department, and the winner is recognized locally and at the state level by the NC Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM). McGee was recognized for her accomplishment by the NCCTM in Greensboro last November, and by the BCS Board of Education on February 1.

“Hands down, this is our Math Teacher of the Year,” wrote one of the judges who reviewed Ms. McGee’s portfolio and qualifications. “Her knowledge, her impact, and her understanding far exceed most educators. We are lucky to have her in Buncombe County.”

Last year, McGee was selected as Haw Creek’s Teacher of the Year. She also is a current National Board Certified Teacher, a leader in the district-wide math team, and a facilitator of professional development not only at Haw Creek, but also for BCS and other school districts in the state. Ms. McGee holds an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Spanish from Montreat College, as well as a masters in Mathematics Teaching and Learning from Mount Holyoke College. A veteran elementary teacher of more than 15 years, she is a strong believer in the school where she chose to send her own two children, Madison and Mason.

As the students sat in a circle discussing their conclusions, they were told the good news about their math teacher. Students glanced at one another while covering their mouths, and suddenly a cheer erupted. Class would not be not over until Ms. McGee received a high-five from every child.

“It’s a humble honor,” said McGee with a somewhat embarrassed smile when asked about being honored. “Sometimes, I think, ‘Who Am I?’ in light of all the people that pour into me. I really think of my teaching career on a continuum of striving to be better and improve. Getting this award doesn’t mean I’m done learning. I have a lot more to learn.”
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