Jun 6, 2016
When Northeast Middle School math teacher Fabian Reid initiated a more personalized, non-traditional teaching method in 2013, parents and students complained.
One of the biggest complaints about his approach — which allows students to progress at their own speed — was that he was not teaching the students.
Their tune changed, though, after assessments showed improvements. Reid’s students have consistently exceeded expected growth each year on end-of-year testing.
“Two years ago, he had the highest growth in Math 1 scores in all of Guilford County Schools,” principal Jamie King said. “Over 90 percent of his students show more than one year growth in his classes.”
For the 2014-2015 school year, Reid’s students had a 100 percent pass rate on the Math I EOC, which earned him $32,000 in incentive awards from the Mission Possible program.
“Now, parents are making special requests for their children to be in my class,” Reid said.
Reid, who teaches Common Core Math 1 and eighth-grade math, was named one of the most innovative teachers in the U.S. by The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator Awards.
The award recognizes educators with ingenuity and resourcefulness who are using the classroom to inspire innovation, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking in their students. Reid is one of 10 first-place winners in the country.
King believes what has made Reid so successful in the classroom is his ability to think outside the box.
“He tries to push each student individually and attempts to reach each student where they are at,” King said.
Each student has his own goal based on his own data and capabilities.
“He sees teaching not as educating all of his students but as teaching each student one at a time,” King said.
Reid lists seven features to his classroom math approach:
1. Self-created and personalized, Reid’s lessons are hosted online, allowing students to complete activities at their own pace, at any time, from anywhere and on any device. “It’s a very common occurrence for no two students within the same class to be working on the same activity,” Reid said.
2. Success is measured by growth, not by letter grades. Each student is given a target score based on Reid’s analysis of state-released testing data, and students work to beat that score on every test or activity, aiming to score higher each time.
3. There’s no whole-class instructions. Students work individually, in pairs or in small groups, with Reid assisting where needed.
4. Each week, the five students in each class who are furthest ahead become assistant teachers.
5. The classroom setup allows Reid to teach students taking different math courses at the same time.
6. Students must master each activity before moving on to the next.
7. Students decide what to include in their notes.
When Reid arrived at Northeast five years ago, he realized he needed to adapt his teaching style.
“One of the biggest challenges was how to teach a heterogeneous group of students of varying abilities without slowing down the faster learners nor going too fast for the slower learners,” he said. “My solution was to personalize each lesson plan and allow students to move at their own pace.”
His model has attracted visitors to his classroom, including principals, academic coaches, district personnel, teachers and a university professor.
Reid also includes parents in the process.
“A child’s mind is ripe for maximum learning when teacher, student and parents have a common goal for success and act in concert,” he said. “Therefore, teaching should include much more than content knowledge but also ensuring the teacher-student-parent triangle stays intact.”
A native of Jamaica, Reid came to the U.S. nine years ago to teach through the VIF International Education program.
“Teaching was in me from an early age,” Reid said. “In high school I tutored my peers.”
He also credits working in his father’s restaurant for sharpening his math skills and fueling his love of math.
Reid received a bachelor’s degree in secondary math education from the University of the West Indies, at Mona, Jamaica, and a master’s degree in fifth- through 12th-grade math from Western Governors University in Utah.
He taught at the Newcomers School and Smith High School in Greensboro before going to Northeast.
Reid, 32, plans to continue teaching math until he retires because he loves what he does.
“No matter what the weather is outside, we have clear skies inside because I can see all the stars,” he said. “My students are the stars.”