Edmond North High School math teacher Ranee Schoenhals puts “fun” in mathematics for her freshmen Algebra I students. She recently was named the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board Teacher of the Month and it is easy to see why.
Schoenhals earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Oklahoma State University. Later, she earned her master’s degree in child and family studies at the University of Central Oklahoma. She also has taken certification tests for special education and intermediate math.
During her more than 25 year teaching career, she has been a preschool teacher, taught a wide range of science classes at the Omniplex (now Science Museum Oklahoma) and she is in her seventh year of teaching in the Edmond Public School District.
Schoenhals still teaches science outreach programs for the museum during the summer.
“My favorite classes to teach at the museum are earth science classes and chemistry classes,” she said. “I like to make messes; from oozing volcanoes to chemical explosions. That is why the OERB is so beautiful because it is applied math.”
With a degree in early childhood education, teaching ninth-grade math was the furthest thing from her mind seven years ago.
“I was approached by Debbie Bendick, Cheyenne Middle School’s principal at that time, and she told me she needed somebody to teach math the way I teach it,” Schoenhals said. “Learning in my classroom is very interactive and my students love to learn that way.”
When Schoenhals was ready to go back to the classroom there wasn’t a position available in the middle school but Bendick told her there was a math opening at the high school and she should apply.
“When I applied for the job I told them I might not be a math candidate but I can teach kids, and they hired me,” Schoenhals said. “I am teaching learning disabled students, and I know when that light finally comes on and they get it. We work on our projects daily and when they see they can pass my class and the EOI (End of Instruction state test) they think they can do anything. They think they are pretty smart, and they are.”
Schoenhals’ teaching doesn’t stop at the classroom door. She teaches geology to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts using OERB curriculum.
“OERB makes my world hum,” she said. “When attending an OERB workshop in 2011, I told them, ‘If you can teach me hard science I can teach it to kids.’”
When the workshop came about she was on her third round of chemotherapy due to cancer but she said, “I dragged myself up there because of the offer of free calculators for my students to use.”
She went back to her classroom armed with the knowledge she learned at the OERB workshop and the calculators, tied it all in with her science background and made her classroom studies interactive.
“I took the OERB curriculum and my students had to drill four wells,” Schoenhals said. “They used a catapult (a mousetrap with a nail and a spoon) to shoot four markers onto a grid that represented levels of the earth. Once they had those markers, they had to determine how much pipe was needed for drilling to those sites. We discussed the need for directional drilling. They also had to determine how much pipe would be needed for a direct drill from one point to the other.
“They used the maps and determined townships. They also determined the distance between two towns driving and by a direct route if flying from one to the other.
“They purchased drilling materials for a variety of rigs. The further out the rig; the bigger reward for a hit on the well. Some materials would not reach all rigs, so they had to decide how they wanted to spend their money. They shot their materials from the catapult and tried to hit the well. If they were successful, they realized revenue. They had to total the cost and the revenue and determine if they incurred a production profit or loss on the project.”
Schoenhals said she teaches students who really struggle with math and who are often reluctant learners.
“They understood that math could give them answers to questions and problems in the oil and gas industry,” Schoenhals said. “I loved that they were interested and came in every day wanting to know what we were going to study that day.
“I had one student who had not done anything the entire year,” she said. “He saw a reason to learn math. He made an ‘A’. He decided he wanted to get his welding degree and work on oil sites. It made math make sense.”
Schoenhals called OERB to ask for more calculators to replace the ones her students were wearing out. After telling them how she had modified and adapted their curriculum, the energy agency paid for the district’s buses to take her students to the Science Museum for a field trip.
Schoenhals added not all Edmond students get to go to places like the Science Museum, and some of them have never been on a field trip since grade school.
“Working with OERB and the materials they offer is a perfect blending of what I teach,” she said.
FOR MORE information about OERB curriculum, go to www.oerbhomeroom.com.