Educator of the Month: Kegan Nall

Five years into her career as a middle school math teacher, Kegan Nall left Edythe J. Hayes to embark on a yearlong mission trip – with no promise of a job when she returned. With The World Race Christian mission group, Nall worked in 11 countries on four continents. From Vietnam to Thailand, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Nall helped build churches, run children’s camps and teach English. The experience enriched her as a Christian and also made her a better teacher. “It was an incredible experience,” she said. “I saw things that many of us never see, like children drinking water out of a muddy puddle. “I also saw kids who were so excited to go to school. It made me appreciate public education. It is so empowering.” The mission experience also transformed her perspective. “After seeing kids in other countries, it’s no big deal when one of my students forgets their pencil,” she said. “I’m not going to give them a lecture over that.” When Nall returned to the U.S. before the start of the 2015 school year, a position opened at Hayes and she was back in the classroom, armed with a fresh perspective. She also resumed her Mastery Learning technique that she and her fellow math teachers use at the school. In Mastery Learning, students aren’t given only one overall grade on a test. Instead, they receive scores on a variety of skills. So a student can see, for example, that he knows how to add and subtract decimals, but needs work on multiplying them. After an area of weakness is identified and worked on, students are allowed to retake the test. “This is empowering to students because they can see that they are strong in some areas and need work in areas,” Nall said. “Students and parents respond well to this, and it gives a lot of students hope.” Nall and her colleagues have presented this technique to other teachers at a Kentucky Center for Mathematics conference and will do so again this spring. Nall, who loves reading, travel and college sports, earned her master’s in educational policy, which emphasizes equality in access to education for all children. Given that she has served children from Kentucky to Cambodia, this is an ideal area of study for this world traveler.