As she enjoys the last month of summer vacation, Jessica Napier is anxious to get back to helping students excel.
The Mundy’s Bay Public School teacher was recently recognized for her contribution to her students' learning with an Impact Award.
“It’s an acknowledgement for putting research into practice, which I thought was pretty cool,” says Napier, who lives in Orillia and graduated from Lakehead University's teacher education program, based in Orillia, a few years ago.
“Math is my niche, for sure, and I just wanted to make sure that was prevalent in my classroom.”
Now in its second year, the Impact Award program is designed to recognize teachers of mathematics who have used research-backed teaching methods to generate a significant improvement in outcomes in their classroom.
While she wasn’t able to attend the recent awards ceremony in Toronto, Napier said she was honoured to receive the award when her principal presented it to her.
“It was an award acknowledgement from Knowledgehook, which is a board-approved technology tool that we use to assess a student’s progression and student learning in math,” Napier says. “It’s a fun way to review concepts and it’s directly related to the Ontario curriculum."
Napier began using Knowledgehook in 2020 and 2021 while teaching virtually and like many teachers at the time was on the lookout for fun and engaging activities.
“The first time I used it was with my Grade 5s and they had so much fun,” she says. “They don’t just answer questions, it’s more of a game to them.”
The software company noticed Napier was using the tool in her teaching regularly and asked if they could interview her and post a video for other teachers to view. This video and further study led a judging panel to award her with the Impact honour.
A member of the Impact Awards’ judging panel noted that Napier's classroom is very student-centred and focused on success for all.
“Students are encouraged to take risks and not worry about making mistakes because mistakes cause the brain to grow,” wrote MaryLou Kestell, past president of OAME and a mathematics teaching and learning specialist.
“With a variety of teaching strategies including 3-Act Math and technology applications, Jessica engages students in math investigations using a selection of tools.”
Added fellow panel member Tracee Tomlinson: “Jessica fosters an acceptive and inclusive classroom environment where she incorporates an abundance of supportive teacher resources that align perfectly with her classroom curriculum.
“She strives to encourage her students to develop a growth mindset by implementing frequent collaboration and engagement through interactive ways of utilizing technology in math, such as using visual manipulatives and activities/games.”
But teaching is actually Napier’s second career, having started out as a graphic designer after university.
“I loved my job, but my favourite part of my job was teaching people or training new employees and helping other designers learn a technique that I love,” Napier said, adding her outgoing and social personality in helping others led to a co-worker suggesting she become a teacher, a path she soon followed.
“I had always wanted to be a teacher, but never thought I could do it.”
The Toronto native eventually started volunteering in a classroom and found she was overjoyed with her day and what she had contributed to the students’ learning and lives.
“I felt like it was so rewarding so I thought I’m going to try this," she said.
And Napier said she realized she could use her Bachelor’s degree in technology as an added teaching resource.
“It’s kind of what got me the (online teaching) job right out of Teachers’ College because I had so much technology experience. It’s really the best of both worlds,” she said, noting her current teaching job allows her to use both her creative and technological-savvy sides.
Having arrived at Mundy’s Bay in November, 2020, Napier taught a Grade 6/7 class during the 2021/22 school year and will teach a Grade 4 class for the coming year.
She adds: “I get to do what I love and I can get to pull those talents from my other career so that’s pretty amazing.”