Bracebridge Teacher Wins Impact Award

Bracebridge teacher's award-winning style combatting math anxiety in students
Posted on 07/13/2022
Article written by Mary Beth Hartill, Bracebridge Examiner

Students at Monsignor Michael O’Leary Catholic School are learning to overcome math anxiety with the power of the words “not yet.”

Michelle Scarlett of Bracebridge was one of 28 teachers from across the country to receive this year’s Impact Award celebrating math teachers for their dedication and effective use of researched-based practices in the classroom.

After listening to the impact stories of the other teachers presented with the Impact Award, Scarlett is humbled to be among them.

“I don’t see myself as an exemplary math teacher, but I love teaching math,” she said, honoured that the experts judging the competition run by math software company Knowledgehook acknowledged what she does in her pedagogy and in her mantra.

She teaches the power of yet and the growth mindset that teaches students not to give up.

“‘If I don’t get it, I don’t get it — yet.’ We keep trying,” she said. “Mistakes are going to happen.”

The Grade 6 math teacher believes mistakes will happen, but success is built from making mistakes.

“Math anxiety is huge for a lot of kids,” she said, noting that the past two years with schools closed and the educational system relying heavily on learning at home has been difficult for many.

“I do a math (attitude) survey at the beginning of the year. A lot of kids have huge anxiety about math — they don’t think they can get it. They will get it,” she said. “The other thing is that a lot of parents have a lot of math anxiety and that often transfers. I hear parents say they can’t help their kids — they don’t know how to do the homework — those conversations are happening at home too.”

She said they know there are gaps and says it is important as educators to read the class, and not merely push through the curriculum.

“We have a new math curriculum that came out at the same time as COVID so I don’t think the curriculum should drive what happens,” she said. “I think the kids need to drive what happens in the pace of the teaching and we also have to understand that kids learn differently so have different modalities in teaching them.”

She believes the days of textbook teaching are over.

“Adults need to have a growth mindset too,” she said. “Not every teacher is comfortable teaching math. Especially primary teachers.”

Scarlett admits that she wasn’t particularly good at math as a student but grew her skills when she began teaching the subject. She has been teaching for 24 years and doesn’t believe her learning should stop either. She takes advantage of every professional development opportunity and workshop she can to grow her skills for the betterment of her students.

Scarlett has moved into the role of special education resource teacher at the Bracebridge school and hopes to bring her mathematical teachings to her students. She provides a good deal of literacy support and hopes to add math support, the area where her passion is greatest, to students who are struggling.

To learn more about the Impact Award and to hear Michelle Scarlett’s impact story, visit 

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