National organization names Thill Teacher of the Future

By Jordan Freisleben

Math teacher Bill Thill was named one of 20 Teachers of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools.

The Teachers of the Future program was established in 2007 to honor teachers who “shared their expertise in teaching through technology” and employed “creative ways of teaching,” according to the NAIS website.

Thill was nominated for the award by Math Department Head Paula Evans.

Evans and Thill agree that most of the Math Department’s work is done through collaboration.

“The faculty here is so forward-thinking that anyone could be a Teacher of the Future,” Evans said.

Evans said she nominated Thill because of the timeliness of his pursuits.

“[Thill] is working with data analysis that is very, very current,” she said. “Data analysis became part of the new SAT, which is very important for our students here. But this ‘current topic’ is something that [Thill] cares about and has been diligently working in for 15 years.”

“We work very much as a team here,” Thill said. “It’s nice to be noticed but it’s only a function of the fact we work collaboratively and we all bring things to the table. It’s one thing to have an idea and another to have experience with people with experience.”

A key part of Thill’s teaching is emphasizing collaboration amongst students, he said.

“Technology is one way, but there are a lot of different ways to harness kids’ knowledge,” Thill said.

“You want them to collaborate effectively and learn from each other – how can I help students share their knowledge? It changes how they view their peers and their colleagues,” he said.

Although Thill integrates technology in all of the classes he teaches, he uses the most technological tools in AP Statistics.

His statistics class used the program Fathom to create a web-based survey comparing Harvard-Westlake students and Loomis Chaffee High School students in Windsor, Conn.

Thill required students to create two research questions to analyze differences between students at the two high schools, using data from the website survey.

“What I liked was that it was real data from real people and students asking questions that interested them,” he said.

Thill views education-targeted technology as a way of measuring his students’ understanding.

“What I try to focus on is activities to see what students understand and what they have yet to understand,” he said.

In addition to using Fathom with his AP Statistics class, Thill uses Microsoft Excel in his Precalculus class and does a “pre-AP” version of the AP Statistics survey with his Algebra 2: Fundamentals class.

The 20 teachers honored will be expected to moderate an online teachers’ discussion forum and post a teaching demonstration video on the iTunes U website.

Thill will also attend a two-day Summer Education Institute for teachers, sponsored by Apple.

“The event is for the honored teachers to work with Apple products, like the iPad, and work together to rethink the classroom,” he said.

“Any one of us [in the Math Department] is equally deserving, for sure.” said Thill. “It’s a team effort.”

“[Evans] has helped us collaborate with each other, which is what I’m trying to teach the kids,” he said.

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