© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

Newcastle High School depends on online math classes after a teacher resigned suddenly earlier this school year

A teacher kneels next to a teenage boy and helps him with a math problem on his laptop.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
Teacher Sonya Tysdal (right) works with a student on finding the solution to a math problem during a work period after virtual lessons have been completed.

Students at Newcastle High School have been learning virtually for Algebra I and II math classes this year after the resignation of one of the school’s two math teachers in September. Highlighting national and statewideteacher shortage, the school was unable to find in-person teacher replacement.

“When we couldn't find that live teacher that was here, then we tried to find the next best thing that still was giving quality instruction to students and some pretty good learning opportunities for them,” said Sonya Tysdal, the school’s curriculum director. “So that we wouldn't lose out on developing their mathematical understanding.”

Due to the load of math classes, two teachers are necessary to teach all the courses. The online provider of classes that the school ended up partnering with was Carnegie Learning, which normally provides tutoring services. Mathia, a component of the company, is specifically focused on mathematics and is a major part of the students’ online learning. Canvas and Edulastic are additional educational software programs that are being used.

Sophomore Taylor Conklin likes math but said it was hard to adjust to online learning. The second half of the year has been easier for her than the first.

“I'd say it's pretty interactive, I think I like it, but I think I'd rather like have in-class teachers instead, like teaching, but I like it overall,” she said. “[For the] first semester, I had a teacher and she was kind of, she just kind of lectured us the whole time. So, I found that class to be really boring, and I kind of like dreaded going to it. But then this semester, I have a really good teacher and he's really good about like, incorporating us and making sure we understand. So, this semester has been a lot better.”

Junior Teegan Hathaway said he’s not a fan of math. But said there’s a lot of room for students to ask for help in the online class.

“They've, like, grown to understand that it's hard to teach an online class if you're used to having an in-person thing, and they try and help as much as possible and they try and like contact you as much as possible,” he said. “They're open to like, emails and stuff.”

Bryce Hoffman is the principal of the school. He didn’t know how the transition to online learning would affect student outcomes but now believes it hasn’t disrupted things too much.

“[Virtual learning] was our best option at the time, it wasn't a solution to the issue that we had,” he said. “But it was a good option that would include our students being taught by individuals who were certified math teachers as opposed to just any random subs put in the classroom.”

Hoffman is unaware of any other school in the state depending on a virtual class for as long as Newcastle High School has.

Hoffman attributes the difficulty in finding a qualified teacher to the fact that the school year had already gotten underway, with otherwise available applicants having already signed teaching contracts with other schools. Non-teachers with requisite skill sets, such as engineers, may not necessarily find teaching high school math classes an attractive alternative, which Hoffman believes is due in part to the disparities in pay. But nonetheless, he’s glad things have worked out as well as they have this year.

“I'm proud of our students for being flexible,” he said. “This was a scenario that came upon us quickly, and it took us some time to find a good solution, [an] idea to help solve our problem.”

A math teacher has been hired to provide in-person instruction for the next school year, making this the last semester of virtual learning. This will cut down on the school’s expenses as well, as the virtual math classes have cost about double than what in-person instruction would.

Corrected: March 28, 2023 at 8:19 PM MDT
This article has been corrected to indicate Sonya Tysdal is only the curriculum director, not the other in-person math teacher.
Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
Related Content