Math teacher Sally Barron, given a chance, will modestly play down her hard work and the accomplishments made during 15 years of teaching at Lake Highlands High School.
Her colleagues, however, pushed her into the limelight by nominating her for the Teacher of the Year award sponsored by the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands. The nominating criteria sought a teacher who constantly strives for student success; demonstrates a high degree of caring for students; assumes a leadership role with students and faculty; and might be considered the Òunsung heroÓ among the teachers.
ÒI was overwhelmed,Ó at being chosen, Barron says.
But looking at her history with LHHS, itÕs easy to see why Barron stood out.
For one, Barron worked with another teacher to revive the schoolÕs local chapter of Mu Alpha Theta, a national academic club for math students.
She moved the focus from the traditional emphasis on math team competition to one of showing students how math fits into the real world Ð by, for example, bringing in guest speakers to discuss mathematics-related careers. The club requires a high-B average in math and that certain courses be taken; it now has about 370 students.
Also, Barron discovered a need for math tutoring at Northlake Elementary (where one daughter teaches) and arranged for Mu Alpha Theta students to do the tutoring for service hours. This student-based tutoring program has only grown stronger over the years.
BarronÕs current crusade is to help Spanish-speaking students perform better on the math portion of the TAAS test. She believes that these students can do the math, but that the language barrier Ð most of the problems are word problems Ð is keeping them from performing as well as they could. She has recruited several Spanish-speaking students in Mu Alpha Theta to help bolster these studentsÕ language skills.
Barron also helps students just by being there. An hour before school starts, she is in her room. Students often come by during this time to work on math assignments.
ÒItÕs kind of a security blanket for them,Ó she says. ÒThey might ask one itty-bitty question, but they know IÕm there.Ó
Barron says her most common question from students is why she teaches at LHHS when she lives Òso far away.Ó (Barron lives in Dallas, but is within the Plano school district.) Any thoughts of relocating were quashed early on.
ÒAfter being here, I couldnÕt think of leaving Lake Highlands,Ó Barron says. ÒThe sense of community here is something IÕm not willing to give up.Ó
LHHS is lucky to have Barron, says Anne Barab, an RISD trustee who chaired the Teacher of the Year award committee.
Barron, who teaches Algebra II and Geometry, must reach a wide array of students, Barab says. And she does so beautifully.
ÒThese are not necessarily the most motivated or super-gifted math students,Ó Barab says. ÒBut she builds such great rapport. She explains things so clearly and so easily it gives you a sense of confidence Ð a feeling that ÔI can do thatÕ.
ÒShe just loves the students. The most successful teachers are those who love their children and convey that to them and the parents.Ó
Barron does indeed have a strong attachment to her students. She says the best part of teaching is visiting with former students.
ÒMy favorite part of teaching is when a student comes back and tell how theyÕre doing,Ó Barron says. ÒJust last week, a student I taught in the eighth grade at St. Thomas Aquinas came up. ItÕs just so nice.Ó