How an Alumna Uses UVA Basketball To Teach Math to Kindergarteners

March 4, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

Reece Beekman’s shot beat the buzzer and the kindergarten class roared. 

Or, more accurately, they rose from their assigned seats, jumped in place, and let out a series of joyous screams at the television screen.

It was around 2 p.m. on a Thursday, and the noise coming from Ms. Koprowski’s room was enough to let the rest of W.T. Cooke Elementary School know: The Wahoos won.

“The kids were so excited,” Tracy Koprowski said. “It was so fun!”

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Koprowski, a University of Virginia alumna, works at W.T. Cooke in Virginia Beach where, like the scene after Beekman’s game-winner to lead UVA over Syracuse in the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, students tend to show love for their teacher’s alma mater.



Koprowski has found a way to blend her two passions – educating young minds and the UVA men’s basketball program – through the establishment of a couple of math traditions at W.T. Cooke.

In return, she’s helping to create a generation of Wahoo loyalists some 180 miles from Grounds.

“I have kids who are now in middle school who are still UVA fans because of kindergarten,” Koprowski said. “So, I just think it’s cool. It’s a great way to build relationships.”

On weekday mornings before games, Koprowski splits a display board into two columns. On one side is a pasted UVA logo, and on the other is the emblem of UVA’s next opponent. The students then are asked to stick their name tag under the team they “like” to win.

“We do graphing in kindergarten,” Koprowski said. “So, after they make their picks, we’ll make a graph out of the results. We’ll talk about which one got more votes, which got less votes.”



On the first school morning after games, Koprowski will present the final score – team logos and all – on a digital board and then ask her students to circle the larger number. So far this season, UVA has been circled 21 times.

It’s a counting lesson colored in orange and blue. 

“They’re learning about two-digit numbers and bigger numbers and smaller numbers,” said Koprowski, who regularly posts classroom updates to her X account. “Some of the close games are great, like the one against Clemson when we won by one point (a 66-65 UVA win on Feb. 3). I just like to see their wheels turning, trying to figure it out.”

Tracy Koprowski

Always picking from a wardrobe of orange and blue, Koprowski, a 1994 UVA graduate, has been teaching at W.T. Cooke Elementary School in Virginia Beach for eight years. (Photo by Kristen Zeis)

Koprowski, a 1994 graduate and product of the University’s Navy ROTC program, began her teaching career in 2014 after serving for several years as an intelligence officer in the Navy. A longtime fan of Cavalier basketball, she admits her interest level increased once coach Tony Bennett was hired in 2009 and started taking the program to national relevance.

“What he’s done with the basketball program is just unbelievable,” she said. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times, and he’s just so humble and genuine and down to Earth.”

For a long while, Koprowski drove around with the vanity plate, “WE (heart symbol) CTB,” a reference to “Coach Tony Bennett.” Her W.T. Cooke classroom, where she’s been for eight years, displays similar touches. An orange-and-blue pom-pom, for example, is hung behind her desk between a pair of UVA rally towels. 

Other Hoo-themed decorations include the dozens of drawings she’s received from her students, ranging from large orange Vs outlined in blue to a variety of spellings of “Wahoowa” scribbled boldly across a sheet of paper. 

“Wu-hy-wu” was one 6-year-old’s valiant attempt.

“One of the things that I love is kindergarten writing,” Koprowski said with a grin. “The fact that she wrote that on her own, she’s sounding things out.”

The adorable art is more evidence of Koprowski accomplishing a major goal of this year: forming a bond with her students.

Tracy sits on the floor with her kids
“Teachers are always looking for ways to build relationships with their kids,” Koprowski said. “… UVA basketball has been my way of building relationships. They get so invested.” (Photo by Kristen Zeis)

“In this day and age, that’s everything,” said W.T. Cooke principal Kelly Padilla, who received her master’s degree in education from UVA in 2006. “It makes kids want to come to school. That’s really the important thing.

“When students know that either they’re going to be able to make the prediction of who’s going to win or they get to see the score and talk about that, that’s huge. Her kids, they tell me in the parent drop-off line all the time: ‘Did you see UVA won?!’

“Now, we got these little 5- and 6-year-olds watching UVA basketball. It’s pretty neat,” Padilla said.

Koprowski’s daughter, Malia, will be a first-year student at UVA in the fall. Many of her other “kids” will continue to cheer on – and learn from – the Hoos from afar. 

“Ms. Koprowski is my favorite teacher because she is very kind,” fourth-grader Ally Schierer said in the 2022-23 W.T. Cooke yearbook. “She knows a lot about me and got me into the Virginia basketball team. I saw things in a different perspective, and she taught me in a way that I would understand.”

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications