As a ConocoPhillips Teacher of the Month, Maurer will be recognized with other math teachers during a pre-game ceremony during the Houston Astros vs. Detroit Tigers game at Minute Maid Park on August 14.
Nominated for the award by Spring Branch ISD’s Carol Salva, who works in the secondary Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Office, Maurer was surprised in his 4th period academic math classroom at the middle school on March 23.
He was selected by ConocoPhillips, along with the Houston Astros, for his work as an exceptional teacher who inspires student interest and excitement in mathematics education and learning.
He is honored this month on the ConocoPhillips website:
Maurer has earned a $1,000 donation to the middle school, $100 gift card good for classroom supplies, a campus appearance by the Astros mascot, Orbit, and Astros game related gifts, including up to 10 free game tickets.
“This was a real surprise,” he said. “Sometimes in teaching we work really, really hard and we don’t always take the time to look up and realize that we do well. To learn that I was nominated for this award was both surprising and an honor to me.”
Maurer has taught at Spring Woods Middle for nine years, including eight years in the math department, which he chairs. He coaches both seventh-grade football and eighth-grade soccer.
A University of Houston graduate, he is currently working on his master’s degree in Integrated Science Math and Reflective Teaching (iSMART), which he should receive in May. He is also a mentor teacher and a cooperating teacher for student teachers.
In addition to presenting at area mathematics and English as a Second Language (ESL) conferences, Maurer has taken part in the ConocoPhillips-Rice University Applied Mathematics Program (AMP!).
Carol Salva, who nominated him, and several students, including Salva’s own son, Anthony, sing his praises as an educator.
“Students are truly engaged in this classroom,” Salva said in her nomination. “Mr. Maurer’s lessons include real-world scenarios with technologies such as dynamic calculators and an interactive whiteboard. One of the most important aspects of the class is that students are motivated to speak like mathematicians and share their thinking with each other. They also write daily to reflect or to individualize their learning.
“Mr. Maurer also spends significant time teaching students vocabulary and how to use those terms so that they are able to analyze mathematical processes together,” she also said.
Salva’s son, Anthony, a 7th grade Algebra I student, says that Maurer is the perfect example of “a different kind of teacher.”
“He is very kid friendly,” Anthony said. “He doesn’t just lecture, he really makes sure that we all understand the math. The class is very interactive. We take notes, but we also do a lot of activities. We get to use special calculators that help us understand what we are learning. Students even get to teach sometimes.”
Spring Woods Middle eighth-grader Angel Ruiz was inside the classroom when Maurer was surprised by a small group led by Orbit, the Astros mascot.
“He’s a really good teacher,” Angel said. “He makes teaching fun. Sometimes I’ll get confused and come in after school, and Mr. Maurer always helps me.”
The criteria for selection included the following:
- Commitment to excellence in mathematics teaching
- Evidence of creativity and innovation in the classroom
- Demonstration of leadership skills
- Effective use of traditional and nontraditional teaching tools
- Goes above and beyond to make in a difference in students' lives
- Demonstrated increase in student achievement in mathematics
- Demonstrated increase in student affinity for mathematics
“Students are truly engaged in this classroom. Mr. Maurer’s lessons include real world scenarios with technology such as dynamic calculators and an interactive white board. One of the most important aspects of the class is that students are motivated to speak like mathematicians and share their thinking with each other. They also write daily to reflect or to individualize their learning. Mr. Maurer also spends significant time teaching students vocabulary and how to use those terms so that they are able to analyze mathematical processes together.
“Foundational to the success of his students, is Mr. Maurer’s “Social Contract.” The learners create this contract early in the year. They develop their own norms for how they should treat each other and how they want to be treated by their teacher. Students then feel safe taking risks without the worry of being mocked or ridiculed by others. The contract norms are reviewed throughout the year. Students own the norms and through this process, the community continues sharing, learning and growing in a safe environment.
Many students come to Mr. Maurer with low confidence in their math abilities. By the end of the year, these same students are showing significant growth and achievement in math. This is evidenced by their standardized assessment scores which are above state averages. Their scores are impressive, but in Spring Branch we know that growing the whole child is our most important goal.
“I can speak to this not only as a colleague but also as a parent. My own son is in Mr. Maurer’s class this year and I am able to see how engaged he is in the subject. Anthony tells me that he enjoys having the opportunity to think about math and talk about it with other students. He feels challenged. He tells me the class is difficult. But he also tells me that Mr. Maurer makes it fun.
“Without question, we are proud and grateful to have Joseph Maurer teaching mathematics in Spring Branch Independent School District.”
Additional remarks by Anthony Salva, a 7th-grade Algebra I student at Spring Woods Middle:
“Mr. Maurer is a different kind of teacher. He is very kid friendly. He doesn’t just lecture, he really makes sure we all understand the math. The class is very interactive. We take notes but we also do a lot of activities. We get to use special calculators that help us understand what we are learning. Students even get to teach sometimes.
“One thing that is really important is that Mr. Maurer makes sure that we always answer questions “like a scholar.” That means that we always answer in complete sentences. This is not just important in math, it improves our vocabulary which is important in life. Kids are talking a lot and problem solving together but Mr. Maurer is always there if we need help.”