The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

June 17, 2009

Teacher shared math talents

Rhodes specialized in developing programs

GEORGETOWN — Esther Rhodes has a mind made for math and she has been sharing it with students for 35 years.

Rhodes has been a fixture in the math wing at Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School since 1990, teaching algebra, calculus and physics, but she also taught science and math for years at the junior high before moving up a level.

Developing programs has been one of her specialties. Some programs have involved older students working with the elementary level, while other current projects are futuristic.

Programs with younger students have included velocity and aerodynamics with balloons and straws, determining the speed and size of an animal by its tracks, a cardboard boat race at the YMCA and an Egyptian unit where they mummified chickens. Also, she organized a Pottawatomie festival with high school volunteers for the fourth-graders where they made fire, stretched real drums, tanned hides, made outfits and more.

Most recently, Rhodes has been involved in helping to write and develop a Wolfram Mathematica software program that uses calculus to find the volume of an object using photosensitive liquid. It’s the first of its kind to use the Mathematica software for calculus class learning. Rhodes has already presented it publicly once and will again at a state mathematical conference this fall.

But, of all that she’s done and accomplished as an educator, Rhodes said it’s the “light bulb moment” that is her favorite part of teaching.

“It’s working with a student and seeing that light come on when they really understand,” she said. “That’s the best part. That smile when they get that paper back and it’s really clicked with them.”

She said students have changed since she first began teaching, but it isn’t all bad. She said kids today are just more into instant gratification.

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