Vermillion Teacher Receives 2020 Daktronics Outstanding Mathematics Teacher Award

Vermillion math teacher develops creative lesson plans and adapts to each student’s learning ability.

Each year, Daktronics recognizes a teacher who excels in the mathematics field with the Daktronics Outstanding Mathematics Teacher Award. This year, that recognition goes to Jennifer Ashley who teaches eighth graders at Vermillion Middle School in Vermillion, South Dakota.

Ashley has taught at Vermillion for seven years; she strives to show students math is not to be feared and motivates them with fascinating and stimulating teaching strategies. Ashley develops creative lesson plans and projects and provides differentiated instruction to adapt to each student’s learning ability.

Many experiences students have with math are negative when they first enter Ashley’s classroom, she said. Experiences in the past create a lack of confidence in their abilities. However, after learning from Ashley, they leave having a new appreciation for the subject.

 Ashley is a strong believer in a quote from William G. Spady that says, “All students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day in the same way.” Therefore, she believes developing innovative teaching techniques is of the utmost importance.

“I am always coming up with captivating and thought-provoking lessons,” Ashley explained. “Knowing and understanding my students helps me develop techniques that will most benefit my students.”

Tim Koehler, principal at Vermillion Middle School, applauds Ashley’s attention to detail and common-sense approach to problem solving.

Kohler commented on Ashley’s hard work and thoroughness, saying, “Ms. Ashley is a tireless worker who is very dedicated to helping her students.”

He adds that she spends numerous hours before and after school, working with students along with extra tutoring for middle school, high school, and University of South Dakota (USD) students. Additionally, she is the chair of Vermillion Math Counts, a mathematics competition organization at the school.

Ashley’s dedication and teaching strategies are also recognized by those most affected: students and their parents. Sara Mart’s child, Gertie Peterson, was enrolled in Ashley’s class and praises her teaching habits. According to Mart, her daughter has a newfound love for math after applying Ashley’s methods to the subject.

When Mart asked her daughter about Ashley, she said, “Ms. Ashley is good about making sure everyone understands concepts before moving on to new topics… she accomplishes this by using lots of different examples to keep everyone interested and understanding.”

As an employee at the USD Academic & Career Planning Center, Mart has also observed Ashley’s hard work for the past nine years tutoring USD students. As a result, Ashley became the only tutor USD Athletics will hire in the summers to tutor student athletes.

Kayleen Job was also taught by Ashley and explained how dedicated she is to helping her students.

“She comes in early and stays after school for tutoring,” Job explained. “A few students have basketball practice immediately after school until 5:15 p.m. each day. Ms. Ashley understands that we need to be at practice, so she will stay at school until after practice and then tutor us until 6 p.m., or until we understand the concept.”

Co-worker Nichole Tarr agrees that Ashley is a “real go-getter” and came to this opinion when Ashley substitute taught in her seventh-grade classroom. Tarr said the following year she was fortunate enough to have Ashley occupying the classroom right next door and gets to admire her classroom environment every day.

To create optimal interest in the STEM field, a main part of Ashley’s environment is technology. She is always willing to implement new technology into the classroom and introduce it to the students. Technology Ashley regularly uses includes the website, graphing calculators, a Smart Board, and iPads.

Leah Brink (Recruiting & Pipeline Manager, S.D. Corporate) adds, “Daktronics believes in the importance of STEM education and we like to support educational initiatives that instill this in our younger generations. The Daktronics Outstanding Math Teacher award is a great way we recognize this concept within our home state of South Dakota.”

“The goal is to have a Chromebook in all the middle school students’ hands in the next year or two,” Ashley explains. “This award will allow me to attend training and develop lesson plans to utilize this technology.”

Once Ashley masters the technology, she will be able to further her students’ education in new, interesting ways, broadening young minds and ensuring the STEM field flourishes in the future. 

This article is by Angela Fuhr in Employee Communications.

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