Teacher inspires students at PHS

“You hurt your back doing what?”

“Graphing aerobics,” PHS teacher Keri Ross answered. “I really have an old college swimming injury, but the aerobics brings back the pain sometimes.”

Graphing aerobics isn’t the latest fitness craze. This craziness is what’s going on in Mrs. Ross’s pre-cal classes, along with other inventive teaching techniques that make difficult mathematics accessible to teenagers.

Every year, the faculty of each of Shelby County’s public schools chooses a teacher of the year to represent their school. This year, Ross is Pelham High School’s Teacher of the Year. In addition to being the school’s math department chair, pre-cal instructor, leadership team member, SGA adviser, and unofficial graphing aerobics instructor, Ross is an exceptional teacher and coworker.

Ross is the total package teacher. Her class is demanding. She pushes her students. She knows that when they hit college mathematics, their most demanding day in pre-cal will be a warm, fuzzy memory. Ross prepares her students for those difficult collegiate math classes with both content and strategies for mathematical success.

PHS class of 2009 valedictorian Melanie Short, currently a Birmingham Southern freshman, said, “I think about graphing aerobics in my calculus 2 class. Every time we mention the graph of 1/x, I know if it weren’t for Mrs. Ross and her crazy conductor concept, I would struggle to remember what that graph looks like.”

Short said, “Mrs. Ross shares stories about her kids or her life as a swimmer that allow students to understand where she’s coming from and feel a connection with her.” Ross’s willingness to share who she is with her students engages them even more in her class.

Along with her husband Greg, Ross parents two young sons Garrett and Patrick. They live a hectic life of little league and lessons, yet Ross still finds time to serve as SGA adviser. In this role, she orchestrates many homecoming activities and insures everyone at PHS has fun –– even if they can’t make it to aerobics.

Ross is incredibly humble.

“I love Mrs. Ross because she is such a selfless person. She gives to others more than she expects to receive,” said junior Ashley Clark. “When she learned she was Teacher of the Year, she gave respect to those who were also on the ballot.”

Ross has found the perfect recipe for teaching teens: mix together challenging work, high expectation, unique strategies and a heavy sprinkling of fun.

“Mrs. Ross is the kind of teacher that, in second grade, you might have accidentally called ‘Mom,’” said Pelham junior Sadie Foster,

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.