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‘Let’s inspire people’: Shadle geometry teacher takes lessons to a higher plane, using YouTube

Shadle Park High School geometry teacher David Montecucco discusses three-dimensional shapes duing a lesson on Wednesday, April 1. (YouTube)
Shadle Park High School geometry teacher David Montecucco discusses three-dimensional shapes duing a lesson on Wednesday, April 1. (YouTube)

As the shape of teaching has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic, so has the teaching of shapes.

Three weeks ago, as the first rumors of school closures hit Shadle Park High School, teacher David Montecucco began to think outside the box.

That was easy enough – Montecucco’s specialty is geometry, after all – and he has taken his lessons to a higher plane, thanks to YouTube.

On Wednesday, standing in front of a white board and wearing a tie-dyed shirt, Montecucco delivered a 20-minute lesson on three-dimensional shapes.

And not just any shapes.

Montecucco is keeping things relevant, with problem-solving the volume of a Lysol bottle or a roll of toilet paper.

That’s enough to get kids’ attention, even in the most distracting of times.

“First of all, this is a scary situation, and in this high school I have 130 to 135 kids and they look to us as their constant,” Montecucco said. “We’re in this together.”

Montecucco and his colleagues had an inkling early last month that schools might close because of the coronavirus.

“We needed to find a way to navigate this,” Montecucco said. “But I know that with Spokane Public Schools and our principal, Julie Lee, there will be a way to make this a learning opportunity.

“We said, ‘Let’s inspire people,’ ” added Montecucco, who’s something of an inspiration himself.

A former professional bowler, he has an engineering degree from Gonzaga.

When his Silver Lanes bowling alley struggled some years ago, Montecucco went back to college and earned a teaching degree. After five years at Lewis and Clark High School, he has spent the last three at Shadle.

By the time Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a six-week closure, they were ready. Montecucco had set the tone with the annual celebration of Pi Day.

Three days later, his teaching radius had widened from a classroom to the infinite.

That’s a problem for some students in Spokane Public Schools, because not every student has access to a laptop or internet connection.

Almost everyone, however, has a cellphone, or access to one. The solution was YouTube – 20 lessons, each lasting 20 minutes and covering 20 days, or until school resumes.

More than a math lesson, Montecucco’s videos simultaneously take students’ minds off the pandemic while also getting something out of it.

“What I like about being in the classroom is we tend not to remember the real world,” Montecucco said. “But I try to motivate them from something in the video.

“It’s a win-win and takes our mind off this.”

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