Member Spotlight

Math Teacher Krystal Carter Earns NEA Fellowship

Middle school teacher is this year's only California fellow
Carter’s students try out their rooftop water catchment system to learn about scale and percent.

If not for a chance encounter with an article in NEA Today magazine, Krystal Carter might not be one of 44 educators recently named by the NEA Foundation as 2020 Global Learning Fellows — an honor that includes international field study next summer in Peru.

Krystal Carter

As Carter flipped through the magazine on the way to the recycling bin, the story about the yearlong professional development program caught her attention, leading the math educator and San Jose Teachers Association member down the path to become the only fellow from California in this year’s cohort. After submitting an application that includes responses to multiple essay questions and a lesson plan demonstrating evidence of global competence, Carter was selected from a pool of 270 educators. It promises to be an exciting journey, even if she’s still not sure what’s in store.

“I don’t really know what I’m getting into,” Carter says with a laugh. “I’m sure I’m going to be working with amazing people, and we’ll see what happens.” Global learning is a way to consider and evaluate our interconnected social, political and cultural systems and the way this interconnectivity affects the work and collaboration needed to solve global issues. It asks students to observe the similarities and differences that exist around the world and relate them to their own lives.

The NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship provides public school educators with 12 months of professional development to integrate global learning into their daily classroom instruction, advocate for global competency in their schools and districts, and help students thrive in our increasingly interconnected world. NEA Foundation staff, partners and field experts support fellows as they participate in online coursework, webinars, peer learning communities, a two-day professional development workshop in Washington, D.C., and an international field study experience.

The 2020 fellows teach all grade levels and subjects, including visual and performing arts, special education, library media and history. Carter, who teaches at Hoover Middle School, is the only math educator in the group of 44 and stands out in recent classes among talented educators focused on the humanities. She’s hoping the fellowship will help her make math more relevant for her students, especially from a global learning perspective. “You can model anything with math,” says Carter. “Everything in life is math.” That includes issues facing people around the world, she adds. These global challenges lend themselves to project-based learning endeavors where students address and analyze the many facets and impacts of issues like overpopulation and water scarcity.

“You can model anything with math. Everything in life is math.”

“What if we have an earthquake and don’t have access to clean drinking water?” Carter asks. “How can we use math to help solve this problem?”

It’s a question Carter posed to students last year as part of an engineering project she designed in partnership with The Tech Interactive museum in San Jose. Inspired by her father’s story about rooftop rainwater catchment systems in Bermuda, Carter asked her students to design similar systems, build and test models, and determine the best approach. Students needed to consider costs for materials and labor in the construction of their systems, using concepts like percentage and scale to guide their design.

Learning new techniques for using math and other skills to help solve problems facing people all over the world is part of the global learning experience Carter wants to bring to her classroom in inner-city San Jose. This includes tapping into resources that emphasize to students the value of their diversity, and exploring how their experiences can be used in other countries and cultures, so they can learn to fully embrace their roles as “global citizens.”

“I want my students to value their multiculturalism and understand that they can go anywhere,” Carter says.

For more information on the Global Learning Fellowship, visit neafoundation.org. Applications for the 2021 fellowship will open in fall of next year.

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