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Therese (Morrison) Rinehart

Alumna Helps Create New Learning Pathways for Math Students

Therese Rinehart has always had a passion for math and from an early age wanted to help others learn to love the discipline as much as she did. She now gets that opportunity every day, while also helping to develop innovative methods for delivering math education to students.

Rinehart, who graduated as Therese Morrison from Cleveland State University in 2003 with a dual major in math and education, currently serves as a math teacher at Phoenix High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia. The alternative high school utilizes a self-directed, online learning model with a focus on interactivity and college preparation. Rinehart teaches courses, participates in curriculum development and implementation and works to advance the student-centric, student-directed learning model at the heart of the school’s design.

“Phoenix High School is set up to ensure students are in charge of their own education and are allowed to learn at a pace that matches their needs and skills” she adds. “Educational concepts are presented through videos, active projects and demonstrations that are based on students’ interests and goals.”

The school is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and classes are two hours each. Students set their own schedules and can take courses online, complete sections at their own pace and then move on to the next. Rinehart provides guidance and assistance when students need additional help, along with mentoring support for class selection, career discovery and college preparation.

Phoenix is part of a growing group of alternative high schools nationally that are breaking away from the standard, lecture-based educational set-up to create a more open and active learning model. The school does still offer face-to-face classes for the more traditional learner. The Phoenix Philosophy is “We Exist for Students.”

“In college and beyond, we expect individuals to make often difficult choices about what skills they want to enhance, what careers they want to pursue and the best learning models for helping them accomplish those goals,” Rinehart adds. “So shouldn’t their earlier educational experiences be designed to help them best make those choices? Phoenix and other schools like it are attempting to better prepare students for what’s next.”

Rinehart, who has taught at Phoenix for eleven years, is now working with the math department and the school administration in developing a new mathematics curriculum, to meet revised federal and state standards. It is scheduled to be implemented next year, and will require the creation of new videos, learning modules and project work that map to the new requirements.

“It will be a significant task but it is also really exciting to be able to help create a new curriculum that is tailored to the learning model we have developed here at Phoenix,” Rinehart says. “I truly love what I do and being able to see my students advance is the best reward.”