Wednesday Jan 27 2010
Accident gives new angle on geometry class
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
Bike crash forces Ray McAfee to go to Web to teach
Loomis district eighth-graders are getting a different angle on math. Twenty-seven students from five district schools take part in a before-school, zero-block geometry class held at Loomis Grammar School three mornings a week. The high-school level geometry class meets from 7:30 a.m. until 8:45 a.m., then the students return by bus to their respective schools. Ray McAfee, a retired Del Oro High School mathematics instructor, is teaching the district geometry class for the third year. Currently, he is doing it from a wheelchair. On Friday, Nov. 13 McAfee was hit by a car while crossing Sierra College Boulevard at Del Mar Avenue on his bicycle. He suffered three breaks in one leg and one break in the other. McAfee spent the month of December in the hospital and in recovery and said he’s lucky to be alive. During his absence, students were given assignments and McAfee was expected to be back after Christmas vacation. January found the instructor still unable to return to the classroom, so Carolyn Nichols, assistant superintendent of curriculum for the Loomis Union School District, arranged for McAfee to tele-teach from his home. He taught using Skype, a free software program that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet. Nichols added a Webcam, and McAfee was back in the geometry business. Nichols said she took a white board and camera to McAfee’s home. Students were able to listen and interact with McAfee via the classroom computer and the class smart board. Will Ferreira, from Franklin Elementary School, said he found the technology that allowed his instructor to teach them from home “pretty amazing.” “It was virtual teaching,” Will said. According to Will, tele-teaching has its ups and downs. “Some days it was frustrating because we didn’t get a good signal. It’s not as hands on. I prefer him being there in person,” Will said. Spencer Dickinson, from Franklin School, said he found having his teacher on a Webcam “kind of weird.” “He seemed like he was looking right at you and you’d think he could see you, but he couldn’t,” Spencer explained. Nichols said the camera only allowed McAfee to see about 10 students because it couldn’t get a wide-enough angle or zoom in. Will said he finds geometry “fairly easy” and thinks McAfee is a “really good teacher.” “He explains it very thoroughly,” he said. For his part, McAfee said he enjoys teaching the Loomis district’s advanced math students. “They’re bright, inquisitive. I can do things with them that I couldn’t do with a regular high-school class,” said McAfee, who taught full-time at Del Oro for 28 years before retiring, then taught there part-time for four years. Nichols said McAfee provides a good match for the students. “These kids have a real innate interest in math. He does a great job with the them. Not all math teachers have his skill set,” she said. Nichols said that the geometry students are advanced in math. “Many are GATE (Gifted and Talented) students and high achieving,” she said. In order to participate in the class, Nichols said students had to successfully complete a full course of Algebra 1 in seventh grade. She said students can repeat geometry in high school, or they can pass the challenge tests for Algebra 1 and geometry and then, as freshmen, take Algebra 2. “I’m going to take the challenge tests. “That way I can take calculus my senior year,” Spencer said.