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March 26, 2021

Lynn Simpson: From Tough Reality to Empowered Learner

Sarah's Summer Road Trip

This interview with Lynn Simpson is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Lynn’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!

Lynn Simpson’s students are a reflection of her own story as a teacher: empowered, persistent, growing.

Lynn found teaching as a second career, during her time volunteering in her children’s elementary school (the school she teaches at now). After 20 years of working for an HMO, Lynn used her volunteering experience as motivation to obtain her teaching certificate, and is now completing her seventh year of teaching at Lakeridge Elementary School in Seattle, Washington.

Listening to Lynn talk about teaching, it’s clear she’s found her passion. But it hasn’t come without struggle. As a teacher in one of the lowest performing elementary schools in the state, Lynn remembers when the staff was told their school would either have to choose a transition model, or a turnover model. Teachers worked together, with the help of a supportive administration, to create a transition plan that required applying for — and getting — a three-year grant, enlisting the expertise of the University of Washington, extending the school day, and committing to extensive professional development over the course of the next few years.

What emerged out of this experience, for Lynn and others, was an opportunity to grow as teachers because they grew as learners first. Lynn talks with deep appreciation for the professional development they received because she “learned how mathematicians think.” Her ability to think like a mathematician means that Lynn also understands the intricacies of math processes so when students get confused, she doesn’t just point them to an answer; she diagnoses their process and can re-teach specific steps.

As Lynn grew as a mathematician herself, she also recognized the necessity of discourse as a way to empower young mathematicians. And once she saw the power of talk in her math classroom, she saw that it transfers to the learning in other disciplines as well. She’s a teacher who is constantly living the growth mindset for her students, not only as a mathematician, but also as a colleague. Often you will see Lynn teaching in other classrooms, inviting colleagues to teach in hers, or even calling for a “teacher time out,” which means she and her colleagues need to confer about the best next steps in a lesson. I know that as you see Lynn and her students in action in this video, you’ll see what I heard: a passionate, dedicated teacher, who has taught her students the value of not running away from what’s tough, but embracing its potential.

For more on teachers working together to grow as mathematicians collaboratively, check out Teaching Channel’s Collaborating to Develop Mathematical Ideas series.


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