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North Hills math teacher Rick Roth rolls with new technology in the classroom

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 8:01 p.m.
Rick Roth of Shaler Township, a math teacher at North Hills Senior High School in Ross Township, will receive the Blackboard Catalyst Exemplary Course Award in July 2013 for the online geometry course he designed and developed.

The use of technology in education always is changing, and teachers must grow with their students.

That's why Rick Roth, a math teacher at North Hills Senior High School in Ross Township who understands the increasing role of the Internet in the classroom, will be honored with the Blackboard Catalyst Exemplary Course Award for the online geometry course he designed and developed.

“A lot of brick-and-mortar public schools are using online options with the kids now,” said Roth, 39, of Shaler Township. “We're trying to expose students to the technology that's available, and it also goes along with their learning style.”

Roth developed the geometry course for Blended Schools Network, or BSN, a nonprofit organization based in McVeytown that enhances education for students in kindergarten through the twelfth grade with online instruction and applications, said Deanna Mayers, BSN's director of curriculum.

Mayers nominated Roth for the Exemplary Course Award because of his dedication to providing strong online learning opportunities in math.

“Rick embraced the use of tools that will help the students that take his course not only learn geometry but also become independent, lifelong learners,” said Mayers, of Stroud Township, Monroe County.

Blackboard was founded in 1997 to create a better education experience for all those endeavoring to learn. The Exemplary Course Award began in 2000 with the goal of recognizing the designers of engaging online courses that represent the very best in learning technology,

Nominated courses are evaluated by a peer group of Blackboard clients, a reviewer council and directors. In the award notification letter Mayers received in early May, the reviewers called Roth's course “a thoughtfully designed course with multiple pathways and support mechanisms for student success.”

“We were really proud because these awards usually go to college-level courses that had teams of designers working on them,” Roth said. “But I was one person building this course.”

Roth joins just four other developers who have won the Exemplary Course Award through BSN, Mayers said.

Roth will be honored with the other award winners at the Blackboard World Conference in July in Las Vegas.

He has contracted with BSN for more than three years to develop online math courses. Roth's geometry course is shared with more than 170 school districts across the nation and will have an impact on more than 1,000 students in Pennsylvania, Mayers said.

“It was challenging to create good, solid geometry lessons in a condensed online format,” Roth said. “You also give the students Web links to cool Internet activities like games or practice websites, so it's enjoyable to look around online and see what's out there.”

Research into what makes education the most effective has shown that a combination of teaching methods gives students the best opportunities to connect with learning, Mayers said.

“Highly engaging digital curriculum … empowers teachers to individualize instruction for students,” Mayers said. “And it increases both student engagement and success with learning.”

No matter how technology changes, Roth said, in 20 years he hopes to still be a teacher in the public schools.

“Teaching is changing with the times, but I wouldn't want to be doing anything else,” Roth said.

“My interaction with the kids is what makes my job great.”

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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