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One Year Later: ASU PREP Teacher and “Teach to One” Math Director Felicia Oliver

March 10, 2021 Teach to One

It’s been a full year since schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For Felicia Oliver, a veteran math teacher at ASU Prep South Phoenix, the human connections with students is what she misses the most. A close second is not being able to collaborate in person with her teacher colleagues in the math department.

“You can’t teach in a silo,” says Oliver, who as ASU Prep’s Teach to One 360 math director helped oversee her school’s rapid transition to remote learning. The collaborative teaching practice that is built into the Teach To One 360 model, she says, is a cherished routine for her team. “You have to talk and bounce ideas off one another on how to help students.”

Oliver credits her math co-teachers, Michael Spindell and Blake Arnold, and their embrace of Teach to One’s personalized learning model, which allowed them to adapt their lesson planning, delivery, and engagement strategies to the virtual environment.

“You can be the best teacher in the world, but you’re still human. Teach to One meets each student where they are — it’s incredible. There’s no way any one teacher can differentiate that much,” Oliver says. “Personalization is essential to creating an equitable classroom. Each student is unique and as a teacher, Teach to One gives me the tools to facilitate learning and adjust to the needs of the student.”

ASU Prep South Phoenix is part of the ASU Preparatory Academy, an innovative network of public PreK through 12 charter schools serving more than 2,800 students across four campuses. The network is chartered by Arizona State University, which is nationally recognized for its innovative approaches to education.

Oliver has served as ASU Prep’s Teach to One math director since the partnership launched in 2019. The veteran educator has nearly 12 years of teaching experience, not to mention her “second career” as a full-time mother of three young men–22 year-old twins, and a 19-year-old. Oliver has also been married for 24 years.

Oliver’s impressive background includes serving in the U.S. Army Reserves, earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University and master’s degree in education from University of Phoenix. She shares her love of mathematics with her students, who see her as a role model.

Oliver says she is fascinated by the critical thinking skills needed to master the subject. “With math, if you’re stuck on something, it’s like a puzzle,” she says. “You can try to figure it out and solve it. Teach to One not only allows students to work at their own pace, but they can attempt a lesson or assessment multiple times. Students achieve an incredible amount of growth just from learning from their mistakes.”

In her role as Teach to One math director, she says she’s learned that parent engagement is a key piece of the puzzle. To prepare for an all-virtual start to this school year, ASU Prep hosted a bootcamp session for parents of Teach to One students at the beginning of the year. They focused on familiarizing parents with the Teach to One student portal and features and showed them how they could support their students at home. They also send out weekly newsletters to keep parents up-to-date as the school year progresses.

For much of the year since schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ASU Prep remained virtual, although they are beginning a hybrid model as schools reopen.

Oliver says some silver linings have emerged during the last year. Pandemic teaching has forced them to utilize digital learning tools to get creative and create more interactive learning experiences. She says she expects to continue many new teaching practices when in-person learning resumes: “This is the future.”