Posted Oct 16, 2018

Carmen Shepperd is a seventh-grade science teacher at Ocoee Middle School outside of Orlando, Florida. In addition to her in-school responsibilities, Carmen works to coordinate NBA Math Hoops programming in the afterschool setting with Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida, and this past year she completed her second full NBA Math Hoops season. She was recently named Teacher of the Year at Ocoee Middle School, and was an NBA Math Hoops All-Star Educator for the 2017–18 season. The following are condensed excerpts from a conversation with Learn Fresh team member Sumner Becker.

Tell me about a bit about your experience with NBA Math Hoops.

This past year we actually had a student who went to the [National Championship]. When she was chosen, it was a really big deal for us, because this was not only the first time that anybody had been chosen from BGC to go, but it was the first time that anyone from the state of Florida had ever participated. That was a big opportunity!

The neat thing about it was when our kids were told that he was chosen, they embraced it, and they actually told him, “We’re going to help you, we’re going to keep practicing with you because you represent everything that we’ve done.” That was a wonderful opportunity. And I now have students that, seeing what we have done, are really excited to participate in the program.

The teams all got together and they continued to practice with him, they continued to look at strategy as far as the kind of cards he was looking for, looking at stats; they all came together as a community, and it was really cool.

Tell me about the National Championship.

(Laughs) Oh gosh. First of all, what an amazing opportunity for these kids, who may not have had an opportunity to go visit so many places, go to museums, go and see the Pistons’ arena. They wouldn’t have been able to see something like that! It was a wonderful opportunity to show them how to look at their stats, working with [Wayne State University] students. I think about it as an opportunity of a lifetime. When our young man came back, he told everybody what he had seen, what he had done. And it encouraged these others. We also saw friendships develop with other students from different areas of the States. They still connect, they still talk. It was something that they’ll never forget. Wow. All of the work that you guys do is just amazing!

Reinforcing the math skills, the play time with Hasbro, meeting Ish Smith; they just had a fabulous time. Sitting in the Pistons chairs—they wouldn’t have had that experience if it weren’t for you guys. Having that friendly competition—I saw the support from the other students when we did the final round. The encouragement I saw from the other kids—“it’s ok man, you did great!” Seeing that, and at the end, they all came together—and you know what, the game was fantastic, it was great. And I know my young man still keeps in touch with a lot of those students.

Are there any differences, improvements, or progress you have noticed in your students beyond their math skills?

I see that they encourage others. They are extremely helpful with others in trying to figure out problems, whether it’s science-related or maybe a mathematical term—I see them working together and being friendly, more outgoing. They’re looking forward to this season, they’re ready! They’re encouraging others to join, regardless of whether they went to Nationals or not. It was the [program] experience alone and being able to work with others to improve their math, and being able to do it quicker and faster.

What does being an NBA Math Hoops All-Star Educator mean to you, and what do you hope to get out of your involvement in that role?

I’m hoping to encourage other sites and other schools, to work with Math Hoops and take it all in the way we did. [My role will be to] encourage other educators to continue on and encourage other students to participate and achieve all the lessons, and have that opportunity to be able to go somewhere and compete with other students at the local or national level.

As someone who’s been involved with the program for a couple seasons now, where do you see it going?

I’d like to see more of our state doing this; I’d like to take it to another level. I’d like to see other districts doing this, because I know that they would see this as a great opportunity for the kids. And fun too!

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