2111 Pontiac Lake Rd
Waterford MI 48328-2736
Valerie L. Mills
Supervisor Learning Services
Mathematics Education Consultant Oakland Schools
Teaching is one of the most demanding of the 21st century's professions. Success as a mathematics teacher requires one to choreograph unique learning trajectories for a diverse group of children with literally hundreds of potentially critical decision points each day. This work is further complicated in that while one may learn to recognize effective instructional decisions as an undergraduate, most of us spend a lifetime in pursuit of the skills and judgment that will enable us to guide each of the children in our classrooms toward success as a learner of mathematics.
This preamble is meant to frame what I see as the work of leaders in mathematics education and by extension, the work of NCSM. Because teaching mathematics is infinitely complex and requires a lifetime of study and reflection supported by research and knowledgeable others, mathematics education leaders are an essential component of systems that take seriously the call to educate every student. Whether working in central office administrative positions or in schools as department heads, mathematics coaches, teacher leaders, or building principals, knowledgeable mathematics education leaders are needed to ensure that resources (time, dollars, partnerships, and expertise) are acquired and shepherded toward the work of facilitating lifelong growth for teachers. NCSM's Mission and Vision are rooted in supporting this work and the development of leaders who can do this work. As president elect, my goal is to work to further this mission by supporting the continued production of resources, leadership development programs, and tools for information sharing and collaboration.
No summary of my thinking with regards to mathematics education today would be complete without comments that address our organization's vision of motivating equity and access for all students. For me equity in education is about more than being fair to every child. Equity is about ensuring equitable access and achievement in mathematics and it requires that the council support proactive efforts in at least two key directions. First, the council needs to work in support of policies and practices that reflect the belief that all students can achieve a high degree of mathematical competence and that educators share the responsibility to help students reach this goal. Second, the council needs to enable and promote the use of a system of strategies and resources that support mathematics students with varying degrees of intensity (based on the needs of the students) ranging from classroom-based instructional strategies to special programs and materials that can make high achievement a reality for struggling learners. Part of my leadership responsibilities will be to see that the considerable talent of this organization is brought to bear on projects that specifically target the development of high expectations and effective support systems that will ultimately enable all students to become mathematically literate.
Finally, I believe that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) offers mathematics education leaders and our organization unprecedented opportunities for collaboration in support of greater student achievement. NCSM can and must work to develop and advance these partnerships among its members and related organizations allowing all of us to leverage the best resources and thinking in the service of our students. Particularly as it concerns the CCSS for mathematics and the national assessments that will follow shortly, NCSM as an organization must continue to be a visible and influential national leader collecting information and speaking out for its members and our students. During my tenure it will be my honor to encourage collaborations and to represent, support, and advocate for America's mathematics education leaders and their students on behalf of our organization.
I've been a mathematics educator for more than 35 years, and although my job description has shifted from time-to-time, my membership in the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) has remained constant. I first joined NCSM when I became the chair of the high school mathematics department in my hometown. There were only 12 of us in the department, but new responsibilities appeared quickly. For example, I had never organized and facilitated a textbook adoption, nor had to write policy statements for the school board and administration. I quickly learned that NCSM could help me with both and so began my relationship with NCSM.
As a new coordinator for mathematics, in a district five times the size of the one in my hometown, my duties grew to include professional development, mentoring new teachers, and coaching veterans. Again, NCSM was there with resources to support my new work. Eight years ago, my responsibilities expanded again, this time to include support and guidance to mathematics teachers and administrators in 28 school districts. Again, this leadership organization helped me stay on top of the latest in educational research, policies, and programs that I need to do my job both efficiently and effectively.
While my responsibilities and needs have evolved over the course of my career, NCSM resources, including their amazing members, have remained a constant in my arsenal of key assets and relationships.
One other thought, I haven't missed more than one or two national NCSM conferences since I joined the organization and as education becomes more and more complex, I don't intend to stop!