PITTSFIELD – “Good morning, Josie. How are you?”


On Tuesday morning, Josie Bradshaw looked up at her math teacher, Chris Coro, who began speaking to her Algebra II class for sophomores and juniors. This morning’s lesson: Solving equations with three variables to calculate a point in space where three planes meet, such as where a ceiling touches the corner of two walls.

Bradshaw listened attentively and took notes, and looked up when Coro asked if Bradshaw could see the Smartboard OK.

“Yeah, I can see it,” she said.

Bradshaw and Coro weren’t actually in the same room; they were more than 30 miles apart at different schools.

The interactive classroom experience was possible because of the school’s Tandberg Video Conferencing equipment, which is now serving as a new test of how students can takes classes beyond the walls of the school building.

For Bradshaw, a math whiz, the technology allows her to take high school-level math courses without interrupting her regular schedule at Warsaw Middle School.

Bradshaw, 13, of Pittsfield, is in eighth grade. Coro teaches math at Madison Area Memorial High School.

Bradshaw and Coro started using the video conference system last school year and the pair have continued this year, too. They connected because of Michael Gallagher, superintendent of School Administrative District 53, which serves Burnham, Detroit and Pittsfield. Up until last year, Gallagher also served part time as superintendent of both SAD 53 and SAD 59, which includes Madison.

Gallagher said the $25,000 system, which uses voice-over Internet technology, was acquired about two years ago by Warsaw through a federal grant that included several other school districts and a hospital.

The Tandberg system has been used by teachers and administrators at the Pittsfield school, but Bradshaw is the first student in the school system to use it for a class.

Jean Bradshaw, Josie’s mother, said the class has been a “great opportunity” for her daughter and it illustrates a nice collaboration between the two school districts.

Coro, she said, has also been “amazingly accommodating,” driving to Pittsfield on her own time to deliver books and putting in extra time for her student. Josie Bradshaw has also attended Coro’s class in person.

Jean Bradshaw said her daughter has displayed advanced knowledge of math since elementary school and worked with a tutor during the summers to complete additional math courses. Last year, as a seventh-grader, she was halfway through high school-level Algebra I when Gallagher suggested connecting her with Coro for geometry.

It’s not surprising that using the Tandberg system has come easily for Josie Bradshaw; she’s already familiar with Skype, a live online video link.

“I think it’s really cool and it’s really nice they’re doing this for me,” she said.

Coro said she was approached by her principal last year — her first year as a teacher — asking if she’d be comfortable “taking on a Tandberg student.”

“I feel like last year was a little bit easier because we were doing more demonstrative things, whereas this year it’s more lecture,” Coro said. “But she’s taking it very well.”

When the class starts — jazz plays on Bradshaw’s end to indicate that the video link is connecting — Bradshaw is something of an invisible presence in the classroom, yet Coro and the other students all know she’s there.

“I’ve found she doesn’t really need to ask questions; sometimes as I’m going around the room I have to tell myself to check on Josie,” Coro said. “It takes a certain kind of student to be able to handle a learning environment like she has right now; she understands I have to work with kids at our own school.”

Bradshaw said she doesn’t mind not actually being there in person.

“It’s different than being in the classroom, but it’s kind of fascinating,” she said.

Coro said her students are benefiting from the experience, too.

“It’s really a motivator for the other students, because they think to themselves, ‘If there’s an eighth-grader that can do this, I can too,’” Coro said.

Jean Bradshaw thinks the video conference technology can help other students like her daughter.

“I know a lot of kids who are or were advanced in math who had to double-up on classes and it takes a lot of time in your schedule,” she said. “Doing it this way, it gives you a little more time to take those other electives, too.”

Next year, Bradshaw will attend Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield and expects to take senior-level math classes as a freshman.

“Overall, I hope she got enough out of the video conferencing so she is prepared for whatever MCI has in store for her for math,” Coro said.

“Without the support of her parents being involved, and the support of both schools, then I don’t think it would have been as positive as it has been for all the parties.”