AU education alum named Rookie of the Year finalist for Columbia County Schools

Kyle Cartledge (B.S., 2019, M.A.T., 2021) doesn’t have a lot of free time. In addition to teaching math full time at Grovetown High School (GTHS), he also coaches both the baseball and softball teams, and announcing for two other sports teams. Oh, and he just finished a Master of Arts in Teaching from Augusta University.

After teaching his first year smack in the middle of a pandemic, Cartledge (Photo above: Second from right) was chosen as a top-five finalist for Rookie of the Year for Columbia County Schools and honored at a recent ceremony. Cartledge was nominated by his school leadership, who said that his dedication to his students and to extracurricular activities were key.

“Before day one as a teacher, he had already been on the softball field all summer with his students, supporting them and getting to know them,” said Nichole Lewis (M.A.T., 2009; Ed.S., 2011), Assistant Principal at GTHS.

Cartledge taught freshman geometry, advanced algebra, and a remedial geometry course, which meant he hit every grade level.

“The kids are so awesome. They have great senses of humor and they’re very respectful,” he said, which made his first year fun.

His involvement with the kids after school – coaching baseball and softball and also announcing for basketball and flag football – helped him to create a bond with students.

“Anything to be at the school and around these kids. When kids see you involved, they like that. It helps to create a connection,” Cartledge said.

Lewis said those connections were crucial to Cartledge’s success because creating bridges with students “allow the academics to happen.”

“He really focused on building relationships with his students. As a first-year teacher, he saw the importance in jumping into the school as a whole,” she said. “He worked very well with his team, but he also jumped into athletics. So, he built relationships inside the classroom and outside the classroom, as well.”

“It was really cool to be recognized for that,” Cartledge said, and immediately turned the conversation back to his students, how much he enjoys his colleagues, and how much he loves his new career.

“Our math dept at GTHS works together so well I couldn’t imagine coning into a more supportive environment,” he said. “We have such good mentor teachers.”

That hands-on approach served both Cartledge and his students well. His softball players tied the school record for wins, and both his baseball and softball teams made the first round of playoffs. And he was able to reach some students who originally were not excited about math classes.

“I had some students tell me that they hated math, but they came around and enjoyed my class. That stuck with me,” Cartledge said.

Again, he credits his hands-on approach for his success in reaching students who lack an affinity for the subject.

“We actually went outside a lot this year,” he said. He and his students did projects like make a clinometer – a tool used to measure height – in order teach trigonometry principles. “Instead of just teaching sine, cosign and tangent, let’s go outside and see why we us it,” he said. Students measured the height of the school and the scoreboard, and this exercise demonstrated how the math they were using can be practically applied.

Cartledge encourages student teachers and young professional teachers to spend time developing relationship with both students and with more experienced teachers. His mentor teacher, Jennifer Valentino, spent time helping him to refine his instructional strategies like how to break up a lesson so that he spends less time lecturing and more time engaging students and when it’s appropriate to break a class out into group work.

“I wrote her a note the other day telling her that I learned a lot more my first year than I thought was possible,” Cartledge said.

Lewis said that the mentor teacher program in Columbia County Schools is designed for new teachers’ benefit. Induction teachers are provided structured activities around instruction and classroom management to help them achieve success in the classroom. But the relationship between newer teachers and veterans can be as important as that between teachers and students.

“I would say to listen to the advice of the veteran teachers around you,” she said.

And while it might be summer, Cartledge is not slowing down. He and colleagues are working on a curriculum overhaul for two of the senior math classes, and next year he’ll add on the responsibility of announcing the GTHS football games.

“He is leading the way outside of the classroom, as well,” Lewis said.

And Cartledge said he plans on continuing to do that: “After my first year, I definitely know that teaching is where I want to be.”

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