Lynda Spencer – A True Hero Transforming Education in New Mexico

Lynda Spencer – A True Hero Transforming Education in New Mexico

Lynda Spencer – A True Hero Transforming Education in New Mexico

Every year, the New Mexico Magazine and the New Mexico Tourism Department honor 10 exceptional True Heroes who have gone the extra mile to serve their communities. 

Principal Lynda Spencer and Blanco Elementary School, as a member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Math Teacher Leader Network (MTLN), have hit upon a formula for developing the skills of new teachers, fostering enthusiasm in their veteran teaching force, cultivating new mathematics teacher leadership, and improving students’ mathematics understanding. The school has been a member of the MTLN for 3 years, engaging in mathematics professional learning and, more recently, in developing school-wide systems for continually improving math teaching and learning.

Lynda is being recognized for her exceptional dedication to improving education through a groundbreaking math initiative that focuses on fostering students’ number sense.  

As for many schools in New Mexico, and throughout the country, mathematics achievement at Blanco Elementary School in Bloomfield, NM, has been lower than desired, and the teaching force necessary for improvement has been scarce. For the past three years, Lynda has guided her team in collaboratively identifying and addressing a shared problem-of-practice in mathematics teaching and learning that contributes to the low mathematics achievement, namely, “how can we improve students’ number sense?” In addressing this problem-of-practice, Principal Spencer has guided a process of school improvement that resulted in effective strategies for math improvement: Number Talks, number sense lab, and math study cycles. Number Talks and the number sense lab are approaches to help students develop conceptual understanding of mathematics, develop multiple strategies for solving mathematics problems, and cultivate their skills in articulating their thinking. Math study cycles are a process for teachers to collaboratively plan, observe, and improve Number Talks lessons as they facilitate them in their classrooms.

After the end of the pandemic, Principal Spencer found that none of the students at Blanco Elementary were testing as proficient in math and student scores had dropped precipitously. Recognizing the importance of fostering a strong foundation in mathematics, she decided to undertake the challenge of enhancing number sense among her students with the MTLN.

With this program, LANL education professionals  Zach Leonard, Randy Merker, and Karla Matute meet with Blanco Elementary teachers at least once a month and stay for a couple days to continue working with them at the school. They engage along side teachers in math study cycles, a continuous improvement process for improving mathematics teaching and learning. Lynda says that she is very pleased with the MTLN program and this is how professional development should be done. 

Since taking part in this initiative, Principal Spencer reports that the students now test 27% proficient on the state tests, which is an incredible improvement! Number Talks has really increased student engagement in the classroom, and Lynda reports that they can see increased engagement and growth with both their students and teachers over the last 3 years.

This would not have been possible without the support of the Math Teacher Leader Network. 

We celebrate Lynda Spencer’s remarkable achievements and recognize her as a true hero in education. Her passion, vision, and determination serve as an inspiration to us all, reminding us of the transformative power of exceptional educators. As we look to the future, we hope that more individuals follow in Lynda’s footsteps, embracing their roles as champions of education and advocates for positive change.

The New Mexico Consortium is a proud supporter of the MSA Program. The Math and Science Academy is a LANL intensive and comprehensive professional development program designed to support improvement of teaching and learning mathematics in school districts in Northern New Mexico. MSA supports teachers and school leaders with job-embedded professional learning with a focus on systems change. To learn more about the MSA see: https://community.lanl.gov/education/math-science-academy/

To learn more about this initiative and the other recipients of this year’s New Mexico True Hero awards, see New Mexico Magazine’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVjL7Tz1sTQ