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Swarm 365 Heroes in the Community: Meet Katrina Smith from Mathnasium

By Sam Perley

One of the most challenging elements for parents of school-aged children during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been having to adjust to a completely different educational format. All-day Zoom calls with teachers are now the new normal for kids of all ages and expectedly, it’s put a strain on the entire learning process.  

Swarm 365 Member Katrina Smith is doing everything in her power to help bridge that gap, which has been widen for many students thanks to the unusual circumstances. The Shelby, NC native is currently the owner of and Center Director for Mathnasium in Myers Park, a learning outlet that provides outside-the-classroom assistance for students in mathematics.  

“What we do is support local school systems by bringing in children to help catch them up, keep them caught up or get ahead in terms of their math curriculum,” explained Smith. “The teacher can only provide so much with the larger classroom, so some parents recognize their children need more support. They find us and we certainly work with them from that perspective.” 

Mathnasium currently serves students ranging from elementary school all the way through college. Upon entry into the program, everybody receives a personalized lesson plan that best caters to his or her particular needs. 

“The first thing we do is an assessment so we understand where the child’s math academic falls,” said Smith. “Then we create a customized learning plan for each child. As you continue to go through the school system, math builds upon itself. If you don’t get something in the fourth grade, it’s going to slow you down in the fifth grade.” 

Dealing with COVID-19 has predictably been an uphill challenge for Smith and Mathnasium, forcing the learning center to quickly adapt and implement new practices on the fly.  

“In a week’s time, we had to pull together a virtual platform for our students, which really saved the business to be honest. We opened [the center] back up on June 1. The children are really struggling with this virtual learning. Some are doing okay, but they are the minority. The majority – especially elementary – they are struggling.” 

She added, “Pre-COVID, I probably had almost 80 students at the Myers Park location. Post-COVID, I’m down 60 to 70 percent for a number of reasons. Some families have been hit financially, some don’t want their child to be on a computer all day and some just can’t do it. They’ve tried and it didn’t work.”

Mathnasium has also gone above and beyond to make sure the students in the program still physically attending the center do so amidst a safe and healthy environment.

“We put in all the safety protocol to make sure that our children, families and staff are safe. We do the six-foot distancing, temperature checks, hand sanitizer. I went a step further and purchased the acrylic sneeze guards that are now between the instructor and students. We clean and sanitize everything after each child leaves.” 

A life-long sports enthusiast and proud University of North Carolina alum, Smith is a basketball and football fanatic. She became a full-time Hornets season ticket holder about eight years ago and loves just about everything when it comes to watching games at Spectrum Center. 

“The energy, camaraderie – when you become a season ticket holder, you get to know all the people around you. You don’t necessarily see them outside of the game, but when you’re there, everyone is talking and catching up. I miss the actual competition of basketball and the sport itself. I miss being able to be there, watching the team play, the highs, the lows, the oh-my-God moments.”  

“I didn’t get to go to a lot of the games this season, but the ones I did get to go to, I always enjoyed myself. As far as the team and the new look, I am anxiously awaiting the growth. I know that it takes time to pull everyone together and become a team. Everyone wants this team to function like another team functions like the Lakers or whomever. I know it takes time and I’m just looking forward to that day.”

The last six months haven’t been easy for anybody, particularly students and teachers. But despite the tough times, Katrina Smith, Mathnasium and countless others in education are admirably doing everything they can to make sure as many children as possible keep up to speed in mathematics. 

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