Amanda McCallister

Amanda McCallister “Changed my mindset to believe I can graduate.” High praise from a students who nominated her for the Golden Apple! Amanda, of Rockford, has 11 years of teaching experiences, the last seven at Roosevelt CEC, where she teaches Math. Principal Morgan Gallagher, who has worked in public education for 17 years, says that as department chair, Amanda has led her peers in adjusting instruction to individual student needs through assessments and data-driven improvement cycles. He says, “As a result, in the last two years, the number of credits earned by students has increased more than 60-percent and in turn, the number of graduates has increased more than 40-percent.” Jennifer Macek, Director of MTSS, Rockford Public Schools, said, “Amanda knows math, but more importantly, she knows how to teach math.” Amanda feels that, “the purpose of math education is not about using formulas or following a specific pattern; it is about training the mind to think logically and justify your work.” The students in Amanda’s classes often have failed multiple math classes and need individual attention to boost their confidence and encourage them to keep reaching to achieve their learning goals. The family supporting their academic growth is as likely to be a grandparent, aunt, friend, sibling or significant other as a parent. These students need to know their teacher is trustworthy, despite whatever challenges they’re dealing with, before they are willing to listen and make an effort. “Many teenagers do not want to go to a parent for advice. [They turn to] social media, friends and the television to help them figure it out. I make it known to my students that I care about them as a whole person, not just their math skills.” By talking with students about family and relationship situations, job problems, anxiety and budgeting, and providing consistent praise and support, Amanda shows them just how much she cares. Another student nomination reflected Amanda’s commitment to her students: “She has always gone above and beyond to help me succeed in school and has motivated me to keep going and finish no matter how many struggles I faced. I appreciate her very much.” Many times, students come to Roosevelt without bare essentials needed to succeed. Amanda applies for grant money to offer things like food, hygiene products, calculators and a classroom charging station. Additional ways she goes above and beyond have included tracking down an absent student on Facebook to learn the student had been kicked out and needed help reconciling with family; using prep time to mentor and tutor students; watching a student’s child while the student finished remaining credits needed to graduate; and creating a personal finance workshop. She has also put all her courses on the LMS PowerSchool Learning system so that students who need a distance learning option, have one. And she always finds alternative ways for students to achieve their learning targets to accommodate their unique backgrounds, learning styles, skills and interests. Macek confirmed that Amanda “works with her team to ensure that all students have the support they need to be successful, not just in her classes, but in school and in the community.”