Making the Grade: Kristin Yankowski |

Making the Grade: Kristin Yankowski

HARRIET HAMILTONsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

Dozens of neon kites and glittering cardboard geometrical shapes hang from the ceiling of Kristin Yankowski’s math classroom at Summit High School. Yankowski, 41, has been enthusiastically teaching math for 21 years, the last five at Summit High.Her teaching schedule includes IB and regular Geometry, Math Life Skills and IB Algebra 2. Every quarter she meets with the parents of each of her 155 students in a student-run parent conference. It’s not unusual to find Yankowski in her classroom talking about math with a parent and student long after school has ended for the day.Yankowski knows many parents are nervous about tackling more advanced math homework.”They’re either afraid they’ll tell the kid the wrong thing, or it’s been so long they’ve forgotten what math they used to know,” she said. Encouraging parent participation is one of her primary goals.

“We talk about strategies like making flash cards,” she said. “They can help their kids do the odd problems, which have the answers in the back of the book.”Yankowski has taught all levels of students, from pre-kindergarten through junior college, but she likes high school the best. “I think math really applies to the real world,” she said. “If you look at an Algebra 2 class, you can find professions that match up with every section.” Yankowski encourages both the right and left brain features of mathematics. Her delight in geometry is evident in the brightly colored geometric artwork papering her classroom walls.”I see geometry as an art class,” she said. “You can relate it to your creativity.”

Her classroom is a busy place. During Yankowski’s “free” period, student after student shows up and asks for math help, make-up tests or even extra supplies. The atmosphere is welcoming, and she encourages all questions. Yankowski came to Summit County from Port Charlotte, Fla., five years ago. She was living in the same town where she grew up and was looking for a change of scenery.”There were still teachers at the high school that were teachers when I was a student there,” she said. She now lives in Breckenridge with her three children: Courtney, 17, Randy, 15, both at Summit High, and 3-year-old Jaiden.This year has been unusually difficult for Yankowski. She had bilateral knee surgery last summer, suffered a pulmonary embolism and started the school year on supplemental oxygen. Despite these challenges, she remains available to her students and their parents. Her passion for math and engagement with her students are obvious in her stimulating classroom. The apparent chaos is intentional. A banner over her desk tells the story.

“Dull women have immaculate homes,” it reads. Goals: I’m in a doctoral program at Walden University. I’d like to teach high school another five to 10 years and then go on to train teachers.Challenges: Time! I’m on several committees in the district. I’d like to have more time for kids. I wish there were about 11 hours more in each day.Gratifications: It’s when you can see that light bulb come on. That’s the best thing. I get to see the growth kids make from freshman to sophomore year.What’s the one thing about you people may be surprised to know: I failed to go to the Olympics in swimming in 1984 because the U.S. boycotted them. I set every swimming record in my high school. Some of my high school records still stand, 25 years later.

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