Petal’s Loper honored by Algebra Nation

By HASKEL BURNS,

Ask Teresa Loper or any of her colleagues at Petal High School why they love teaching, and they’ll say it’s not for awards or recognition, but rather their love of the students and of the profession.

But a little reward is always a nice extra.

In Loper’s case, that extra came Friday, when she was one of only three teachers in Mississippi to be awarded an iPad and Apple Pencil from Algebra Nation during Teacher Appreciation Week. The gifts were given to Loper during a surprise visit from Shauna Hedgepeth, assistant director of Algebra Nation, a free resource designed to help students master Algebra I and beyond.

“It’s a great honor,” said Loper, who has taught math at the high school for 25 years. “I’m a little bit surprised, and excited about the award. I can’t wait until Monday rolls around, so I can share the news with my students and show them that their hard work has helped me.”

The gifts were the result of Algebra Nation’s “Test Yourself Challenge,” which incentivized students across Mississippi to prepare for the Algebra I MAAP exam using the site’s online practice tool. Each time students completed an online practice section with at least 70 percent accuracy, they earned entries into the Algebra Nation challenge – which, in turn, earned entries for Loper as well.

“I appreciate all their efforts,” said Loper, who co-chairs the math department with teacher Lisa Amacker. “They’ve worked really hard in preparing for their state tests this year, so I hope when they receive their scores back in the summer, they’re pleased with their results and proud of what they’ve accomplished this year.”

This year’s challenge featured two rounds, with the first round lasting two weeks. Because the second round lined up with Teacher Appreciation Week, Hedgepeth and other Algebra Nation officials to decided to award the teachers, in addition to the students, for their work on the challenge.

“I think (Loper) realized that the ‘Test Yourself’ questions – and really, all of Algebra Nation – is the only curriculum and resource written to the Mississippi standards,” said Hedgepeth, who also awarded iPads to teachers at Natchez Early College Academy and. “Unlike a textbook that tries to hit everybody in the country, this is really focused on Mississippi kids and Mississippi teachers.

“She felt like that was a really good way to prepare her students for the state test, and so we get to see her results, and hopefully we’ll see what happens when they come out later this summer.”

Algebra Nation provides a free online resource with an accompanying workbook for Algebra I students and teachers. The program provides support to more than 35,000 math students, with a personalized learning program of 24/7 homework help from study experts, teachers and peers.

“The questions are very similar to the state test,” Hedgepeth said. “When I worked as a Mississippi teacher, I helped work on the state test – I wrote test items, so I’m very familiar with what that test looks like.

“So I’m completely convinced that Algebra Nation’s ‘Test Yourself’ questions are very similar to what the state test is like. The challenge is really to help kids prepare for the Algebra I test, so that they’re not caught off guard by the rigors of the questions, or the types of items or the testing environment.”