Q&A with first-year Algebra II teacher Kallie Cope

Kallie Cope leans against rocks in the Grand Canyon.

Photos provided by Kallie Cope

Kallie Cope leans against rocks in the Grand Canyon.

Izabella DeCerbo, Managing Editor

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Kallie Cope, one of our 29 new teachers. Cope, who previously worked as a petroleum engineer with the company BP, expressed her excitement to finally move on to the next chapter in life as an Algebra II teacher. 

What made you decide to become a teacher?

“Actually, it’s a long story. When I went to college, my first degree was in French Literature and Linguistics. I had the idea that I would go to law school, but I graduated in 2009, and at that time, everything was falling apart. None of the lawyers that I knew who were straight out of school were getting jobs. Becoming a lawyer started to sound like a really bad idea. I ended up teaching French and made my way through engineering school. After that, I got to work at BP. It was fun and everything, but I really missed working with kids and students.”

I feel that since college is so big and offers students so much, you can really do whatever you want. But eventually, you’ll still somehow end up where you want to be.

Yeah, absolutely. Engineering school was a lot of fun. I loved being a petroleum engineer. But working with students, that was just really a lot more fulfilling for me.

With the fully virtual school experience, Cope has found it difficult to adjust to the demands of being both a new staff member and a teacher. The problems with online tools and resources are innumerable and have ultimately affected how teachers run their virtual classrooms. Cope strives to look past this obstacle, trying her best to make the lessons and learning space more accommodating for each of her students. 

How do you like online school so far?

“I can’t wait to get back to face-to-face learning. I’m having a lot of fun in my classes. I’ve got to say that the teachers I’ve had the chance to meet both inside and outside of my department are awesome. I’m a big fan of our faculty, and I just can’t wait until we can all be safely back together.”

Do you plan to return to the building or stay virtual?

“I’m going to see about that. A lot of things are up in the air right now. It also depends on student demand.”

I completely understand. A lot of my teachers are staying virtual, and I’ve chosen to go through that route as well. But regardless, I’ve still been conflicted. Do I eventually want to go back because I’m a senior and it’s my senior year? Or do I spend the next two semesters alone at home? I’m just hoping that we can safely go back to in-person school next semester and that everything reverts to normal. As a student, I want teachers to be able to teach in the comfort of their own classrooms. 

“Yeah, it’s been kind of crazy. I won’t lie. I’m really glad that we have the “A days” and the “B days” to let me process a bit and get things ready for my students. It turns out that a lot of things are more time consuming virtually than they would be in person, such as marking up papers or taking attendance. It’s really beneficial to have that breather in the afternoons to get everything sorted out.”

Has it been especially difficult to teach math virtually? I know math is usually taught to students by showing and working through different problems with them.

“Definitely. Many of us in the math department are putting up videos made with a dashcam. I have found that to be a huge help to me. We also share whiteboards on Teams, and sometimes as a class, everyone will have their own individual one on a website. It’s not perfect. The user interface isn’t great, and it can be a bit laggy. But, at least it gives me some idea of what people are doing and how I can help.”

Yeah, it’s been difficult for me because math isn’t really my strong suit. I would rather learn it inside of a classroom and be in-person with my teacher. The videos the math department uses are definitely helpful, but at the same time, they also build a barrier between students and their teachers since the information isn’t necessarily being taught in a classroom face-to-face. But regardless, I’m assuming your class is going well.

“I think so. I’ve been really impressed with my students. It’s really hard to see who’s confused when everyone’s cameras are off, so that is one challenge. You have to just call on people and call them out to make them comment.”

What is something important that you’ve learned in the past few weeks of school?

“Especially for the virtual environment, it’s really important to draw students out to make sure that everyone is commenting during the class. You have to make sure that everyone’s at least trying to answer a question so you get a sense of where the whole room is. It’s better than only letting the same couple of kids answer every question. I think that doing this and then following up with students to make sure that they understand exactly where the homework is will be helpful. I see a lot of confusion, especially with all of the different sites that we’re using and the variety of places where students might have to go.”

Luckily, Cope has been able to find comfort among the chaos with various activities. 

What are some hobbies you like to do in your free time?

“I like anything that’s active or outdoors. I like yoga, hiking, camping, and biking. I’ve also been gardening quite a lot during COVID times because I’m at home. I also really like to quilt.” 

That’s so interesting. I’ve always wanted to know how to knit or crochet, but I just can’t do it. My fingers are so big and wide, and I’m so clumsy. Every time I try to knit, the yarn just never turns out right.

“Just keep practicing. You should see my first quilt. It was a mangled mess!” 

But going off of the outdoor activities, did you ever go out over the summer?

“I went to the Hill Country for one weekend. I got a fair hike in, which was good. Thanksgiving, I’ll go and see my family and go across the state lines from Oklahoma and New Mexico. Hopefully, I’ll be able to hike there.”