SHERIDAN — It’s 7 a.m. on a below-zero day in February, but in one classroom at Sheridan College, students are already engaged, scribbling formulas on lined paper as their professor explains vector integration and projectile motion.
“We just want to think of what is happening as time is flowing through this curve,” SC faculty Jeff Walter said to his Calculus III students. “This is a good thing to remember — that this curve, cosine in the i-direction and sine in the j-direction, represents a circle. … This will come up several times this semester.”
And this semester, Walter has several Sheridan County School District 2 seniors in his class, as a part of dual/concurrent enrollment programs at SCSD2 and the Northern Wyoming Community College District.
“We’re able to offer classes in many subjects that the secondary schools either don’t offer, or expand on what they do offer, so the dual and concurrent enrollment programs benefit both the college and the secondary schools,” said Cody Ball, director of dual credit programs for the NWCCD.
The SCSD2 students in Walter’s class completed the highest level of math that the high school was able to offer.
Sheridan College, then, was the place to go for Calculus II and Calculus III.
“They would have hit a wall or would have had to find a creative, possibly costly, way to complete additional math,” Ball said.
Sheridan College has a dual enrollment grant to cover the cost of the courses for the students, so not only is a gap in their math education avoided, but the students do not pay tuition or fees for their education.
These students have enrolled in eight college credits of math, which will help them toward both high school and college graduation.
“We engage in a partnership with the college that is truly invaluable to our students,” SCSD2 assistant superintendent Mitch Craft said. “This gives them a leg up as they transition to college.”
The dual credit programs also serve students who haven’t exceeded what the high schools can offer, but want more hands-on or interesting courses specific to their needs.
“We see many high school students taking welding, art or agriculture classes each semester,” Ball said. “The program is vital to both sides, as we are able to show these students what Sheridan College can offer them, and hopefully they choose to attend here full time after they graduate.”
There are about 100 students taking English 1010 at Sheridan High School, Craft said, which fits into the concurrent enrollment program, meaning that college-level classes are taught at the high school.
“It is pretty impressive what we can do together,” Craft said.
And for Walter, who wants to make math accessible and engaging for all of his students, having students with varied backgrounds is key.
“So many students have this preconceived notion that they are bad at math or that ‘math is too hard,’ which can really hold them back,” Walter said. “In fact, when I was in middle and early high school this was my exact mindset about mathematics — I just didn’t like it. It took some really great teachers to show me the potential that I had for mathematics, and this is what I really hope to do for my students.”
And for Laura Alicke, one of his Calc III students who is a senior at Sheridan High School, he is doing just that.
Alicke moved to the U.S. from Germany a couple years ago, and quickly completed AP Calculus at the high school, Calc I and Calc II. Her teachers encouraged her to continue to higher-level math classes, and she has — for a very simple reason.
“Well … I guess I just kind of like math,” she laughed.