MALVERN, PA—Sister Georgiana Connell I.H.M. has spent her whole life serving others, so it is no surprise that when she found herself unpacking her suitcase at Camilla Hall, a Convent home & healthcare center for Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, her first thought was “what can I do to help others while I am here?”
Left: Sister Marie Isabell listens intently as “Sister G” talks tech. Right: The Friday class always looks forward to their First In Math time.
Sister Georgiana teaches grades K through 4 Spanish at Sacred Heart School in Lancaster, PA. She is also Sacred Heart’s First In Math® Online Program coordinator, and has helped the tiny school become very successful on a national level, often placing among the National Top Ten Schools in the Small School category. She also plays, and was ranked 14th in the nation among all participating Educators in 2016.
While at Camilla Hall to rehabilitate a foot injury, she encouraged Sacred Heart students and teachers from a distance, but wanted to do more. “Camilla is blessed with dedicated employees who give their all for the Sisters, and they inspired me to help motivate some of the permanent residents in one of the best ways I know—through the First In Math program,” says Sr. Georgiana.
She got permission to use the laptop cart, and began regular classes every Friday to introduce and use the First In Math program. In addition to residents, some of the Sisters who work at Camilla Hall also joined the fun. Participants range in age from 50 to 90 years old.
Slowly, everyone noticed something magical was happening. First In Math became a topic of spirited discussion at lunch, or at other times when groups were gathered together. “Sisters like reviewing the math concepts as well as learning new things about computers,” according to Sr. Georgiana. “They’re having fun, and it has helped them develop another common bond.” The program became so popular that some Sisters were gifted new iPads so they could use the website whenever they wanted.
"It is a great joy to watch young students gain confidence as they learn, and it is the same here—age is irrelevant, everyone can learn," says Sister Georgiana. “First In Math is a perfect platform for any educational setting, because it’s not just the complete spectrum of math skills, the activities improve critical thinking, encourage creativity and keep the mind sharp.”
“Whether a person is 9 or 90, they are able to choose games that they can relate to, and this helps them master the skills they need,” explains Sister Georgiana. “Plus, First In Math’s friendly competition creates a wonderful camaraderie that can be invaluable—perhaps even priceless—in situations like this, as well as in the classroom.”
First In Math creator, Robert Sun, a long-time supporter of Sister Georgiana, sent a balloon bouquet along with his encouragement. “As a child, I was welcomed and supported by the Sisters of the IHM at St. Francis DeSales School in West Philadelphia, and they had a significant impact on my life and the direction I took in my career. I am so happy and proud to be in the position to continue to encourage this effort.”
Sister Georgiana returned to school in September, and says leaving Camilla Hall in July was bittersweet. But there is a plan in place. “Sister Pat Cabrey and Sister Barbara Bamberger are now coordinating the program and will continue with their own FIM Teams,” according to First In Math Project Coordinator Nancy Kane, who verified that Sun has donated licenses for two Camilla Hall Teams.
“Bringing First In Math to students around the world has been very rewarding—this opportunity to spread some excitement and challenge to the Sisters at Camilla Hall brings the feeling to a new level,” says Sun. “I truly appreciate all of the hard work, dedication and commitment these wonderful people bring to the lives of others.”