April 2002

Cindy Chapman
Elementary teacher
Albuquerque, New Mexico |

Cindy Chapman has been teaching elementary students for 29 years and is currently teaching first graders. Her teaching experience has taken her to a variety of schools, including rural, urban, inner-city, and bilingual schools, most of which have been in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, area. Her current class includes students from a wide array of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. In 1995, Chapman won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching. She was also selected as one of 18 teachers who were involved in an NSF grant "New Mexico Fellows for the Advancement of Mathematics Education." One of her most rewarding experiences was as a clinical supervisor at the University of New Mexico, where she worked with elementary preservice teachers in their teaching of mathematics and science.

These experiences and others influenced Chapman's approach to mathematics teaching. She saw the beauty in mathematics and strove to communicate that beauty to her students. She began to emphasize multiple ways of solving problems and to encourage students to justify their mathematical claims and to explain their reasoning. She discovered that children had incredible ways of looking at problems when the teacher did not just tell them that they had to do something in certain ways. This recognition of children's creative ways of solving problems led Chapman to see the beauty in mathematics and in teaching mathematics.

Chapman takes pride in her students' accomplishments and in the support that the parents of her students offer, even though they are often unfamiliar with her method of teaching mathematics. She encourages parents to do a lot of playing and counting with their children. She also encourages them to participate in their children's mathematics and to have fun in the process. But she worries about the increased importance of standardized testing and how that emphasis might inhibit her ability to take advantage of listening to her students and structuring her teaching around what she learns about her students' thought processes.

Chapman is adamant about how much her professional development opportunities have influenced her teaching and how incredibly supportive, creative, and empowering they have been. That is what she wants for other teachers. She strongly encourages teachers to seek out and take advantage of opportunities to help them grow professionally.