This blog written by:
USDLA Board Member
The annual USDLA Awards ceremony is always a fun occasion as several hundred of our members and conference attendees gather to enjoy a great meal and congratulate our various winners. One of the most prestigious awards – and one that so directly linked to the core mission of the United States Distance Learning Association is the Award for Excellence in Teaching/Training. This year’s winner is Lisa Ullmann who teaches online high school calculus for Florida Virtual School (FLVS).
I had the chance to follow up with Lisa and chat about her work, the award, and FLVS. We connected by phone, and part of my task was to get her talk about her awards (notably, she is also the Florida Virtual School 2018 District Teacher of the Year!). She is a humble person, so getting her to talk about herself was a tad difficult. As we chatted, though, she got palpably excited when talking about her students and from there we talked about her approach to teaching math.
I started by asking her how she got into teaching math. She told me:
“I knew forever I wanted to be a teacher, but wasn’t sure what kind. I was taking a calculus class in college and I thought it was really easy while the other students were struggling. They wanted me to run the study group and I wound up being their free tutor, and gave me great feedback and encouraged me to be a math teacher. I got my Master’s in Math Education, and worked in a school for 10 years, but felt like the personalized learning aspect was missing. Teaching the same content to all the students didn’t make sense to me and it was leaving some students behind. That’s when I investigated FLVS and came over 10 years ago, doing what I love!”
Lisa works hard to make math engaging for all her students. She uses a variety of techniques including videos, paper-folding exercises, demos, and games (Kahoot, Calculus-Land, Bingo) to teach and assess skills. Her students love the course, (remember, this is calculus!). She spends time to understand where each of her students are in terms of understanding so she can build on that. The FLVS model allows students to start their course at any time, so essentially, she and her team have to adapt to where each student is in respect to the course.
When I asked her what makes her an award-winning math teacher, she had this to say:
“I think about math anxiety a lot. I hear students say they don’t like math, but why? What is the underlying problem? Most of the time, they got lost somewhere – perhaps their math teacher had to move on while the student was still struggling with a concept. Students need to know why they are learning some concepts – to connect it back to something they enjoy.”
I’ve been attending the USDLA Annual Conference for well over 10 years. Each year, I love being able to learn about the various Award winners. It’s always good to hear from folks who are experiencing the conference for the first time, like Lisa did.
“I came to Indianapolis and I had a blast! I went to as many sessions as I could and really enjoyed collaborating with other people throughout our country and throughout the world. That’s when it really hit me: look at all these people and where they came from. And here I am, an award winner and how prestigious that is! I talked with as many people as I could, so I could learn new things. I found teachers who were doing similar things as I was.”
Congratulations to Lisa Ullmann on winning the 2017 Award for Excellence in Teaching/Training! And if you are reading this and haven’t attended the USDLA Annual Conference before, make plans to join us in Indianapolis in 2018.
Florida Virtual School® (FLVS®) is a fully accredited, statewide public school district offering more than 150 free courses to Kindergarten–Grade 12 public, private, and homeschool Florida students. Through a variety of personalized instructional programs taught by certified teachers, FLVS students are able to create an educational plan that fits their unique needs. Since 1997, FLVS students have successfully completed more than 3.6 million semester enrollments.
FLVS also provides courseware, training, and expertise to a variety of online and blended learning programs across the nation. Services include content licensing; custom development for schools, districts, states, and agencies; FLVS Global School; County/District Virtual Schools; digital learning labs; and professional development.
As a not-for-profit, FLVS reinvests revenue into the research and development of new educational technologies and the creation of the highest-quality courses, benefiting students in Florida and beyond.
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Learn more about the USDLA and how you too can be a member. The association supports all core markets including Enterprise, Government, Telemedicine, Education and others.
Our Association is unique, not only for its historical commitment to distance learning, but also for engaging with a broad spectrum of distance learning professionals – K-12, higher education, corporate, government, military, telehealth, and home schooling. While more narrowly focused organizations have an important role, a powerful perspective emerges when bright minds serving diverse constituencies come together.
The USDLA was formed in 1987. At that time, companies like Yahoo and Google were still years away. “Power users” were boasting of their Intel 386 processors. In that context, DL was a concept well outside the educational mainstream. Granted, a few people knew something of the process but hands-on DL experience was rare. USDLA, then, provided a means for these pioneers to find one another.
Today, with more than one-third of college students taking an online class, it’s a far different world but USDLA remains a vital player. Our members continue to seek out other DL professionals. These practitioners still want to grow and want to offer students a strong education in a robust community of learning. Today’s USDLA stands out as a remarkable resource for teachers and administrators who want to enhance the learning experience.