Watching her students successfully overcome challenges is one of Lori Mallett’s favorite parts of teaching math.
“Watching students learn and develop a strong mathematical identity is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever experienced,” said Mallett, a math teacher at Liberty Middle School. “To see them struggle, work through mistakes and reach a solution path that makes sense - it is incredibly joyful for them! The moment they understand ‘the math’ and realize it is far better to make a discovery on one's own than have someone tell you the answer - those are moments I cherish.”
Mallett is one of two math teachers from the Cherry Creek School District who received the Outstanding Mathematics Teaching Award from the Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics (CCTM) at the group’s state conference in September. The other is Justin Cole, who taught at Thunder Ridge Middle School for eight years. They were two of only six Colorado teachers to receive the award this year after a rigorous application process.
Mallett, who spent ten years at Creekside Elementary before moving to Liberty this year, was nominated for the award by Jennifer Overley, elementary math coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools.
“Lori Mallett’s classroom is a dynamic and interactive space for students to learn,” Overley wrote. “Students work in complex instruction groups to discuss and reason about how to solve tasks with many solution paths. Her students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are crucial to becoming a successful mathematician. She also models a growth mindset; Lori promotes a classroom culture where hard work, effort and making mistakes are valued and necessary to increase each student’s success in math.”
“I’m honored to be an award recipient this year,” Mallett said. “I have learned from amazing teachers at Creekside and district coaches. The award is a result of the collaboration of many, many people. I’m very grateful to colleagues for helping refine my instruction to enhance the learning experiences for our students.”
Cole was nominated by Angela Hale, assistant principal at Thunder Ridge Middle School.
“Justin is highly adept at differentiating instruction for the diverse learners in his classroom and dedicated to individualizing his students’ learning,” Hale wrote. “He works tirelessly to make abstract concepts accessible to all of his students and it shows in the level of discussion in his class and his students’ willingness to take risks in those discussions. His students are not only comfortable with abstract concepts, but are also comfortable sharing their thinking with others. Both of these comfort zones are quite remarkable for 7th grade students.”
“It’s a great honor. With all the great teachers in Cherry Creek, let alone in our region, it’s very humbling, but nice to be recognized,” said Cole, who is now a STAR mentor for Cherry Creek Schools. In that role, he supports new teachers. “I’ve done a lot of work with teachers and I really like that challenge. I help them realize what kind of teacher they want to be. I had great mentors and I’m hoping I can give some of that back.”