SHS Math Teacher Kerri Hallihan Embarks on a Sabbatical

Hallihan will spend one year developing math software

After+12+years+at+SHS%2C+Kerri+Hallihan+is+taking+a+sabbatical
After 12 years at SHS, Kerri Hallihan is taking a sabbatical

After 12 years at SHS, Kerri Hallihan is taking a sabbatical

After 12 years at SHS, Kerri Hallihan is taking a sabbatical

Julia Gates and Brigid Murray

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Taking a sabbatical is a leap of faith. It is a leave of absence from one’s job in order to pursue the development of professional skills. Teachers who take sabbaticals are able to bring newfound knowledge back to their schools or organizations. Scituate High School veteran teacher Kerri Hallihan, a programming and mathematics teacher of 15 years, with 12 years of teaching experience in Scituate, is taking a sabbatical during the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Hallihan will work for eMathsMaster, a new software company that specializes in producing math software.  

eMathsMaster is based in London, England, where several members of Hallihan’s family reside. With the help of her cousin, Hallihan landed a job working for the company, as they were looking to expand into the American market. A small family company, eMathsMaster employs 15 to 20 people.

In England, there is currently a shortage of mathematics teachers. Instead of pulling teachers from different subjects to teach math, eMathsMaster creates math software for students and teachers so lessons can be taught virtually. Relatively similar to Khan Academy, this company animates videos to replace or supplement the job of a teacher.

At eMathsMaster, Hallihan will serve as the Director of U.S. Curriculum, where she will lead the team that develops K-12 software for the United States. Although it is not contingent on her work with eMathsMaster, free and unlimited access to the company’s products will be granted to Scituate teachers and students. This will enable SHS to fill in gaps and provide additional methods for students and teachers to access curriculum.  

The process of applying for a sabbatical was daunting for Hallihan. Though sabbaticals are not granted very often, Hallihan was looking for professional growth, and she believed the district would benefit from the opportunity, too. Before meeting with SPS superintendent Ron Griffin, she prepared a multi-page proposal delineating the financial and educational benefits to the district. After several discussions, Griffin and Hallihan agreed she will receive a reduced salary for one year. Hallihan said she also hopes to offer professional development opportunities to district math teachers during her sabbatical. Griffin was supportive and presented the proposal to the Scituate School Committee. According to Griffin, when considering a sabbatical it’s about “finding the opportunity that fits.” Since Hallihan is a veteran teacher who has a solid background in mathematics and programming, Griffin was confident the benefits of her sabbatical would outweigh potential negative aspects. After careful consideration, the school committee endorsed the proposal.

Griffin is familiar with the advantages derived from sabbaticals, describing them as the “ultimate professional growth opportunity.” In fact, while he was teaching science in the Bellingham School District, Griffin was able to travel and live in Australia for one year. While there, he researched ways students were able to access education and learning based on their social well-being. Unlike Hallihan, Griffin was not paid, making his leap of faith an even bigger “family decision.” Referring to the benefits of professional sabbaticals, Griffin said, “Infrequent as they are, when they do happen, they’re great.”

Losing Hallihan for one year presents additional challenges for high school principal Rob Wargo. Although he is supportive of Hallihan’s opportunity, he said it can be difficult for a teacher to be “away from your craft for a whole year.” Hallihan said she will miss the continuity of seeing the same students year after year, seeing them in the hallway, and not being with her best friends–her colleagues. Nevertheless, Hallihan said she will be making frequent stops back at the school, and even plans to attend graduation, “provided nothing gets in the way.”

 

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SHS Math Teacher Kerri Hallihan Embarks on a Sabbatical