Kelly Corrigan’s class at Robert Service High School has some serious problems — high-level college calculus.

But she believes that the only way her students will learn is through trial, and more importantly, error.

“I think what math can teach you at its finest is problem solving and resiliency," she explained. "That you get the opportunity, and it’s the perfect place to make mistakes. Like, we learn more in math by our mistakes than we do from doing it correctly.”

Corrigan subscribes to social-emotional learning, focusing on a student instead of a grade.

“When I talk to a student or when I talk to the parent, I talk about characteristics I see, the struggle I see, or the strengths that I see, instead of going over this homework assignment or this specific test,” she said.

While Corrigan is a math teacher, problem-solving isn't always a numbers game. She also guides her students as a debate coach and peer leadership counselor.

"Just breaking down that argument and being able to talk about it verbally is such an important skill because I think that, still, public speaking in any form is the number one fear most people have,” Corrigan said.

Before becoming an educator, Corrigan graduated college with a degree in math and history but wasn't sure of a career path. Her thirst for adventure brought her from Illinois to Alaska.

When she was ready to move on from a childcare job in Mountain View, friends suggested becoming a teacher. It was the right move, and the Anchorage School District was the right place.

“I’m really proud when I look at how our district has grown through the years. And I know that I’m incredibly lucky that I started my career at a time when ASD was actively looking to build social-emotional learning into the classroom," she said. 

She shares in her students’ successes and offers support in trying times. She understands that her influence extends well beyond books and debate stages.

Corrigan says her goals for students when they leave Service High are simple.

"Resiliency, kindness and creative problem solving,” said Corrigan.

And, she says, learning there's more than one solution to a problem is a solution itself.

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