July 22, 2022 -- Heights High math teacher Melissa Strouth remembers well the moment when Governor Mike DeWine canceled in-person school for three weeks at the start of the pandemic.
“I was on my way to my mom’s house, listening to his press conference in the car, when it occurred to me that this could be a good topic for my dissertation, which I was already halfway through researching on a different topic! I emailed my department chair as soon as I got there and she loved the idea.”
Thus was born “We Survived: A Mixed Methods Study of Mathematics Teachers and Technology During the COVID-19 Crisis," Dr. Strouth’s dissertation to earn her Doctorate of Philosophy in Urban Education: Learning and Development from Cleveland State University. Her research focused on teaching math in an online classroom, something that hit awfully close to home.
“I thought we would be out for three weeks,” she said, echoing the reaction of so many of us to the initial shutdown. Instead, she spent the following year-plus figuring out how to teach Mathematical Decision Making and Advanced Placement Statistics while fully remote, serving as a Technology Coach for her colleagues at their time of greatest need, and conducting research into online teaching and learning in the midst of the greatest online teaching and learning experiment society has ever seen.
It all paid off as the now-Dr. Strouth was recently honored with the Excellent Doctoral Dissertation Award for Research in Education, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Business from CSU. She was surprised and honored by the recognition.
Even more important than the award are the big-picture lessons she gleaned from her research, some specific to math but most about the value of human connection. Meeting and addressing the mental and emotional health of students, the immense value of being physically in front of them while teaching, and how similar teachers and students are at schools that may seem to have little in common, were just a few of the things she learned.
While interviewing math teachers across the state of Ohio, from urban, rural and suburban schools, in wealthy neighborhoods and impoverished ones, teaching to dramatically different demographics and with different access to funding, she found how much they all had in common. “We were all dealing with the same issues.”
Dr. Strouth is just one of several district leaders pursuing the highest level of education. Assistant Superintendent Felisha Gould recently earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Concordia University-Chicago, which she said “will assist me in my leadership capacity by enhancing research-based best practices for school instructional leadership, and continuing to help in the importance of collaboration and communication with staff, students, and the community.”
Assistant High School Principal Brandon Towns, driven by his desire to be a better leader, recently earned his Ph.D. in Urban Education with a specialization in Policy Studies from Cleveland State University. He is proud to represent this terminal level of educational excellence for his students.