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Mar 12, 2019 2:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Math Teacher Recognized For Bringing Educational Technology Into Classrooms

Westhampton Beach High School math teacher Nick Kochis recently received an award for integrating technology into the classroom. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Mar 19, 2019 2:10 PM

Westhampton Beach High School math teacher Nick Kochis was always a visual learner when it came to math. So when he had the opportunity as a teacher to integrate visual learning programs into his geometry and algebra classrooms, he took full advantage of it.Mr. Kochis, who has been teaching at the high school for 10 years, was recently recognized with a Bright Lights Award from the Association of Suffolk Supervisors for Educational Technologies, or ASSET, for incorporating technology into his classrooms and advancing the school district’s technology initiative. He was among 23 Long Island teachers who received the award at a ceremony in January.

“I was totally surprised and taken aback,” Mr. Kochis said, explaining that he originally misread the email announcing that he won the award. He is scheduled to make a presentation at an ASSET conference this month on GeoGebra, one of the online programs he uses in his classes, so he thought, after quickly skimming the email, that it was merely congratulating him for participating in that event.

Thomas Short, the district’s director of math, science and instructional technology, had nominated him for the award.

“He’s always looking for ways to break down any barriers for our math students. And he provides them with the newest and the best technology resources available for success,” Mr. Short said. “He’s particularly strong in his innovative teaching methodology.”

The 33-year-old teacher uses advanced online programs to engage his students during class and connect them with students in other New York schools to solve complex math problems. He mainly uses GeoGebra and Desmos, websites that offer free interactive math tools and dynamic math sketches, as well as Google apps like Google Docs, Slides and Classroom that he projects onto the classroom’s interactive whiteboard.

He has also run a few technology professional development courses through the Teacher Center of the Western Hamptons to educators in nearby school districts and assisted colleagues with incorporating the interactive whiteboards, called the NewLine LED flat panels, into their lesson plans.

Through Google Classroom, Mr. Kochis partnered his classes with classes in the Cornwall Central School District in Orange County, where he was formerly a leave replacement teacher. He said this type of collaboration made math assignments more personal for his students, as they would receive feedback from the Cornwall students on their problem-solving methodologies.

This year, he introduced an augmented reality app that creates three-dimensional shapes in real-world settings for students to manipulate. Using their phone cameras, students focus on a flat surface, like their desk, choose a shape, and experiment as they like—they can input various equations to illustrate cross sections and maneuver their phones around the shape for views of it from different angles.

“For me, math is about observations,” he said. “You look for patterns and you look for some common traits within a shape or within a certain type of equation that you’re solving. And if you see those patterns, it helps you ask those questions of how to continue.”

He said he prefers this interactive method of teaching over lecturing in front of the class, something that he feels would lose his students’ attention.

“I’m a firm believer that it’s better for them to experience this, than me just stand up at the board and simply say, ‘This is the whole process,’” he explained.

Mr. Short said that students tell him they want to take Mr. Kochis’s class. “They’re always signing up, so that’s always a great indication. He has an awesome relationship with his students,” Mr. Short said.

Mr. Kochis credits his ability to use such technology to the initiative already in place in the school district. Every high school student is given a laptop to use throughout the school day, allowing them to individually participate in the programs Mr. Kochis uses.

“I had always felt encouraged to keep moving with it, especially in a math class, because who would think in a math class you’d be able to use the computers as much?” he said of the district’s initiative. “I always try and push the boundaries on what you’d expect in a math class.”

When he interviewed for the teaching position in 2009, he said he told then Superintendent Lynn Schwartz that the district’s technology would benefit his style of teaching. But even when he began back then, available technology was much less advanced than it is now.

Mr. Kochis comes from a family of educators. His parents, Dennis and Estelle Kochis, are both professors at Suffolk County Community College, and two of his three siblings are also math teachers. Before coming to Westhampton Beach, he spent a year as a leave replacement teacher in Cornwall and Smithtown.

Outside of the classroom, he was a former Westhampton Beach interim junior varsity volleyball coach and helped out with freshman class advisory roles.

For future years, Mr. Kochis hopes to incorporate the augmented reality app more into his lesson plans and to remain active in seeking innovative ways to teach math.

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Great news to read! Mathematics are very important and blending tech with math is great. Kudos to you!
By Moral Dolphin (49), Southampton on Mar 19, 19 8:29 AM
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