Beyond the Classroom: Mrs. Cooper Recognized for Impacting Students

Nov 27, 2022 · By Dorothy Tecklenburg

Cooper Class

Commanding the classroom: Math teacher Joelle Cooper teaches a statistics lesson to her Advanced Placement students.

We live in a world of controversy, where “I am right and everyone else is wrong” is a common refrain. But there is one domain where there are absolute right and wrong answers that can’t be second guessed. That domain is Mathematics.

That’s why Joelle Cooper loves math. “Math is the way of making sense of the world with so many opposing ideas," she says. “In math, there’s only one answer.”

Mrs. Cooper teaches mathematics at Avella Area High School.

It is her firm belief that everyone can learn math, even those who profess to hate it. She explains, “You just didn’t have the right teacher.”

When one student said he absolutely, positively couldn’t do math, she challenged him: Take the Pittsburgh Penguins’ win/loss records over the past 30 years and analyze the data for why the team won Stanley Cups some years and not others. His presentation was inspired as he brought the energy of certainty to the class.

Mrs. Cooper belongs in Avella. She attended school there, K-12. With a graduating class of only 41, it’s a tight-knit community where everyone knew her. After two undergraduate degrees from Duquesne – BA in math and BS in secondary math education – she returned to give back the kind of specific, targeted attention she had received.

Avella parent Charity Porbin recognizes that extra attention. Mrs. Cooper helped her daughter, not only with math, but with her anxiety over grades.

“Mrs. Cooper offered unlimited support both academically and emotionally,” she writes.

“She never seems discouraged. It is the teacher I see in Mrs. Cooper that says nothing is impossible.”

Mrs. Cooper has impressed the parents, but what about her students?

Cooper Award

WCCF Treasurer Richard White and WCCF Chairman Alex Paris flank Joelle Cooper upon the presentation of the Foundation’s Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award at Avella Area High School.

“Over the years, I have spent countless hours in her room, learning, questioning, and reviewing math, but also discovering the nuances of myself and life,” says Marissa L. who studied with Mrs. Cooper from 8th through 12th grades.

“Mrs. Cooper may have taught me a lot mathematically, but I certainly was learning a lot about life alongside those calculus courses.”

To her colleagues, she is a trusted role model.

“There never seems to be a dull day in her math class, as it is always filled with discovery, new and fun ways to practice mathematical concepts, and engaging discussions,” says fellow math teacher Zackery Franks. “She is truly an exceptional educator who inspires her students as well as her colleagues.”

And speaking of school work, she gets an A+ from Avella Superintendent Cyril Walther.

“Her daily goal is to make math relevant and show students the real-world application of their work,” he says. “She is truly a master teacher in her field.”

The Washington County Community Foundation is proud to present Joelle Cooper with the 2022 Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award, which is given to a public educator who has displayed the ability to inspire children from all backgrounds and abilities, who has earned the respect of colleagues, students, and parents, and who is actively engaged in the community.

As for her continuing impact on her students’ futures, she told us, “A lot of my students are going into engineering – biomedical, petroleum, civil. That’s about as math as you can get!”