Ignite! We'll Enlighten You and We'll Make It Quick

  • Ignite! We'll Enlighten You and We'll Make It Quick

    By Suzanne Alejandre
    January 26, 2017

    Imagine you are planning a project for your classroom to develop each and every student’s best thinking, energy, and passion about mathematics. The environment you envision will bond the presenters and, at the same time, capture the attention of their peers in the audience. You trust each presenter to choose their own topic. You plan to communicate belief in and encourage each presenter from the time they accept your invitation until the time of their presentation. You offer logistical and technical assistance but leave the development of the message completely in the hands of each of the presenters. 

    This is what I do as I organize and facilitate Ignite talks for math conferences. I send invitations to five women and five men asking them “Are you game to be an Igniter?” As I hear from each of them, I add them to the roster or if they’ve declined I send out another invitation. My goal is to have a diverse set of ten presenters with attention paid to a balance of gender, age, work experience, ethnicity, geography, and grade level. For the NCTM Annual Meeting in San Antonio, my invitations went out only to full-time classroom teachers! Here’s our roster in alphabetical order.


    (Top row: left to right) Mary Bourassa, Jessica Cheyney, Robyn Drew, Troy Jones, Paul Kelley

    2017 NCTM Annual Meeting Ignite Presenters

    (Bottom row: left to right) Morondo Lewis, Avery Pickford, Megan Schmidt, Monica Tienda, José Vilson


    Let me tell you about each of these K-12 teachers.

    Mary Bourassa [@MaryBourassa] teaches at West Carleton Secondary School in Dunrobin, Ontario, Canada. Her teaching assignment this year includes Grade 10 Applied Mathematics, Grade 10 Academic Mathematics, Grade 12 Advanced Functions, Grade 12 Calculus & Vectors. She is the creator of the WODB.ca website. Mary responded to my invitation by saying, “I am honoured to be invited.”

    Jessica Cheyney [@JChey1] teaches at Double File Trail Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas. She was a 1st grade teacher for many years and has transitioned to teaching Kindergarten this year. On her blog Jessica describes herself as “Teacher. Mommy. Life enthusiast. All rolled together in one simple, imperfect package.”

    Robyn Drew [@robydrew1] teaches at Percy Priest Elementary in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a 4thgrade mathematics and science educator. Lani Horn recommended Robyn to me describing her as “…one of my favorite people in the entire world. She is ... smart as a whip, with a heart full of love.”

    Troy Jones teaches at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs, Utah. His teaching assignment this year includes College Prep Math, Precalculus/Trigonometry, AP Calculus AB. I’ve known Troy since 2001 when I first started working with the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI). Starting in 2012, Troy has organized a Summer Math Camp, a week-long event for local high schoolers to promote STEM education activities for them at PCMI.

    Paul Kelley [@paulrkelley] teaches at Anoka High School in Anoka, Minnesota. His teaching assignment this year includes Geometry, Intermediate Algebra, and College Algebra. Paul has been serving (2014 – 2017) on NCTM’s Board of Directors. Paul was honored to attend a ceremony at the White House honoring exceptional educators on May 3, 2016. Paul, who has taught math for 29 years, said it was the best experience of his professional life.

    Morondo Lewis teaches at Eau Claire High School in Columbia, South Carolina. His teaching assignment this year includes Algebra I, Geometry, and Geometry Honors. I’ve known Morondo since 2015 when I met him at PCMI. Morondo is the President-Elect of South Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (SCCTM).

    Avery Pickford [@woutgeo] teaches at The Nueva School in Hillsborough, California. His teaching assignment this year includes 5th and 6th grade math. I’ve known Avery for several years and, in fact, we ignited together in Asilomar at the California Mathematics Council-North conference in December, 2012. That Ignite session was the last one hosted by Key Curriculum Press.

    Megan Schmidt [@Veganmathbeagle] teaches at St. Francis High School in St. Francis, Minnesota. Her teaching assignment this year includes AP Statistics and College Algebra. Megan blogs on Number Loving Beagle and if you follow her on Twitter you might know about some of her passions.

    Monica Tienda [@matienda] teaches at Key Elementary School in Oak Park, Michigan. Her teaching assignment this year is 4th grade, all subjects. Monica proudly signs her email messages with “Ana & Elisa’s Mom” and just recently she added “PCMI/TLP Summer Organizer.”

    José Vilson [@TheJLV] is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood / Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY. On his blog, The Jose Vilson, you can access information of José as a teacher, author, speaker and activist. José is the founder of EduColor, a coalition of teachers, parents, and other concerned citizens dedicated to the uplift of people of color in education.

    NCTM President Matt LarsonMatt Larson [@mlarson_math], NCTM President, is our emcee for the Ignite event. He and Sarah Bush, the San Antonio Program Committee Chair, have made sure to have this Ignite event scheduled in the evening with no competing sessions. They’ve also made sure that there will be plenty of room (Stars at Night Ballroom, B2 and B3) and there will be a cash bar!

    Why only five minutes? An Ignite talk “ignites” people – each speaker is not telling their “whole” story but just enough to get the juices flowing. The goal is to say enough to get folks thinking so that later they’ll come up to you and say, “tell me more about …” or “what did you mean when you said ….”

    We hope that you can join us in San Antonio on Friday evening, April 7 from 6:30–7:30 p.m. to experience a beginning to those ten conversations that these Ignite speakers will spark!


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    Monica Tienda - 4/8/2017 12:51:25 AM

    So thankful to have been part of this AMAZING experience! Rock on, #NCTMannual #Ignite2017 #ClassroomTeachers