Educator Spotlight:
Calvin Lopez from Brooklyn, New York

Our first Educator Spotlight features Calvin Lopez! Calvin, a New Jersey native, graduated from UConn in 2012 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Calvin is now a 6th-year high school mathematics teacher and is in his 3rd year of using Agile Mind Algebra I. In his time as an engineer, Calvin noticed that there were few people who looked like him. He realized that people of color and women were underrepresented in STEM fields. He then concluded that if he wanted to change that, he needed to work in education. Here, Calvin shares his approach to accelerating unfinished learning for students and his wisdom for other Agile Mind teachers:

What are some strategies you are finding successful to accelerate unfinished learning?

We looked at pacing over the summer and thought about meeting the students where they are. There has always been unfinished learning, and we continued to plan thinking about intentional scaffolds and how we introduce topics.
One example

We knew students would not have a lot of experience with square roots and radicals, or how to use them, so we planned to include “just in time” review and examples right before the quadratic topics – just when students will need to be comfortable with them. 

We also think about looking ahead and spiraling in review for important prerequisites for upcoming topics. Right now, students are learning about slope-intercept form. We know systems are coming up in 3-4 topics, so we are looping in review for graphing equations in slope-intercept and standard form so it doesn’t feel different when we get to systems.

And last – Reflection! Every time I do a lesson, I add a “post-teaching reflection” comment to my Deliver Instruction.  Where were students successful? What can I do differently next year?

The Deliver Instruction is like adapting a book into a movie. Some adaptations are too close to the book, or maybe the writers or director didn’t use their voice enough, or they completely misunderstood their audience. When I look at the Deliver Instruction, I think about how I can adapt it for my students.

Any advice you would give to other Agile Mind teachers?

Strong math classroom culture is key! Here are a few things we focus on that students really take to heart:

  • Teamwork
  • Overcoming math anxiety
  • Mindset and neuroplasticity
  • Constant celebration of the small victories
  • Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality

Every day we ask students which Mamba Mentality Core Four they want to embody that day: Bravery, Curiosity, Persistence or Resilience. And, each week, we choose a Mamba of the Week. This is not necessarily tied to academic achievement. For instance, the Mamba of the Week could be for Resilience for someone who bounced back from a tough week or from some sort of failure. 

What about advice for first-year Agile Mind teachers?

Stick with it! It took me a while to get adjusted and it felt overwhelming at first. For example, I would forget what happened in animations. It’s not a bad thing, but an opportunity to acknowledge and model that I made a mistake. Year after year, you will remember more and build memories, and each year will get better.