Lori Gunzelman’s seventh-grade classroom at Andover Central Middle School includes more than mathematics instruction.
“High expectations for all students is the driving force in my classroom,” Gunzelman explained. “It is my expectation that all students will grow mathematically but also build social and responsibility skills during their time in my class.”
According to former students and their parents, Gunzelman accomplishes her goal.
“One particular talent Mrs. Gunzelman possesses is the ability to create lessons of interest to the students,” wrote one parent. “She is able to teach math by engaging the students in projects so creative that often times, the students are so wrapped up in the project, they are unaware of the depth of learning that just occurred.”
Some of Gunzelman’s unique classroom projects include the Barbie Jump in which students calculate how many rubber bands Barbie needs to survive a bungee jump from the football field bleachers; using specific games from The Price Is Right game show to study simple and compound probability; and creating projects to explore three-dimensional geometry.
“One group investigated to determine if Double-Stuffed Oreo cookies were truly double-stuffed by finding the volume of the filling as well as weighing the cookies,” Gunzelman explained. “Their results determined they were not, in fact, double-stuffed — naturally this caused great angst for eighth graders!”
High expectations from Gunzelman were welcome, said a former student.
“She expected that her students would put effort into her class and consistently do their work,” recalled the former eighth-grader. “In turn, Mrs. Gunzelman worked just as hard to give her students the tools to succeed. … I truly believe that one of the reasons Mrs. Gunzelman’s students succeed is because she expects them to.”
Another student quickly noticed an effective technique that Gunzelman used in the classroom.
“When Mrs. Gunzelman lectures, she makes sure to make eye contact with many of her students; I was one of those students who would make eye contact back,” the student wrote.
Eye contact, the student said, helped focus her attention on the lesson and also gave Gunzelman immediate feedback whether students were understanding the material. The student, now in eighth grade, is a math aide in the seventh-grade class.
“This time, she did not make eye contact with me because I wasn’t the one receiving the lesson,” she discovered.
Gunzelman began teaching in 1994 after earning her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Kansas State University with endorsements in math, physics, chemistry and earth science. In 2000, she earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Wichita State University.
She works to instill a sense of service in students both in her classroom and at the school, where she has served as student council co-sponsor. A popular project is an annual food drive.
“Several years ago, I began integrating the food drive into my math classroom by having students create bar graphs to display the amount of food collected by each class,” Gunzelman said, which spurred students on to higher donation rates.
More recently, Gunzelman has connected the food drive with math standards.
“Many computation skills are involved during the week as students help to collect, count and sort the food while also maintaining a spreadsheet of the data and creating the graph — but students don’t view their work as ‘doing math’ as they are active and involved in an important task.”