2 + 2 = The Four Men of the Math Squad

Today we highlight the Woods Lake Math Squad. At the 11th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, the Math Squad was honored with a 2018 Champ Award which was sponsored by ZoetisCIS Board Member David Maurer presented the award.  

The Math Squad is four retired gentlemen who tutor students at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts. Each of the men is mainly focused on a different grade level and, depending on the needs, their supports vary. Some help with fundamental building blocks, while others provide tutoring that reinforces what is being taught in class. “Their support is incredibly valuable,” says CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill. “The skills, patience, and positive attitudes they bring with them each week support both students and teachers.”

The Math Squad’s combined years of life and work experience adds up to—well, since we haven’t had the benefit of their math support—we’ll say: “A Lot!” Stan Lepird, known as “Mr. Stan” was an engineer at Stryker. A volunteer with CIS since 2012, he himself is a former Champ recipient. James “Mike” Bratherton taught for 38 years in the Portage area. Bill Breyfogle, also a retired teacher, taught junior high school science and math for 36 years. Bill Becker, a self-described “full-blooded marine” has a background in business.


When asked what he would like to say to “Mr. Mike,” a student smiled, turned to Mike, and exclaimed, “Thank you for all of the math help! You make math much easier for us.”


The effect the Math Squad has on the students is palpable. When you walk by one of their tutoring sessions you see students engaged, their faces lighting up when they grasp a concept or solve a problem. As Stan Lepird’s student once put it, “Mr. Stan doesn’t give you the answers. He shows you how to figure out and get the answers yourself.”

In Bill Breyfogle’s mind, learning should be fun. “I want to teach these kids to succeed and know that they’re worth something. I don’t want them to be discouraged about the things they don’t know, but rather driven to learn more.”

Bill Becker says, “It is the best day of my week…and I am honored to work with these kids.”

Woods Lake Math Squad, we thank you for helping our kids stay in school and achieve in life.


Where Was Dom When We Were In Fifth Grade?

Edison StudentSpring is here. And our newsletter, CIS Connections, is almost here too, making its way to 2,000 of you. This attendance-themed newsletter will be available on our website, snuggled alongside other archived gems. Featured in this issue is an interview with CIS Board member, Dom Pullo. A Scientist from Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal  Health), Dom has been volunteering with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo since 2004. For nine years, he has been showing up to run a science club that Kalamazoo Public School students clamor to attend. Pretty good attendance record, don’t you think?

Take a sneak peek as Dom, in his own words, describes the experiments he and Kelly Kievit, a Zoetis colleague, are doing with children at Edison Environmental Science Academy along with the support of Eric Clark, Field Enrichment Coordinator with Kalamazoo Public Schools. After reading it, check out these pictures on our Facebook album, taken by Freshwater Photography.

Edison Students w GlovesThe experiments, discussion and demonstrations we provide are not run of the mill fifth grade lessons, but we do try to align some of the content with the curriculum. For example, last month we conducted experiments where the students mixed chemicals that created a chemiluminscent reaction. Or, in other words “light.” This aligns with their early investigations into energy in a fun way. We also discuss other reactions that generate light like bioluminescence found in animals and plants, phosphorescence and fluorescence and provide some “around the house” examples. We discuss what is happening at an atomic level, describing the excitation and relaxation of electrons into the “ground-state” and that the energy given off is in the spectrum of energy we see as light. We help them make a “kid-connection” of the “excited state” and “ground state” of electrons by drawing an analogy to the playground! They love it…and it’s our very first experiment of the year. We then link this to Glow Sticks…something they know, and now understand how they work… through science!

Edison Student Raising HandWe’ll venture into statistics to understand the mathematical concepts of averages and probability. We’ll extract DNA from split peas and investigate circuit theory. In the past we’ve made batteries out of lemons, made Astrolabes, (an ancient navigational aid) and compared them to modern day GPS satellites. Then there are the demonstrations like our kick-off “explosion” where I pour boiling water into a bucket of liquid nitrogen! A definite crowd pleaser for all ages! And this year, a finale, where I’ll crush a 50 gallon drum with 1 gallon of water (shh!) An exciting way to discuss the states of matter! At the end of the year we host a “game show” like “Jeopardy.” The kids retain so much of the information presented; it amazes me every year!