Category Archives: Teaching

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Beth Reed

Math09232013021Bruce Seely, Dean of the College of Sciences and Arts, has chosen to recognize Beth Reed, senior lecturer and assistant to the chair in mathematical sciences as our first Spring 2017 Dean’s Teaching Showcase member.

Seely’s nomination was influenced by Brent Baltus, a senior on the hockey team, who singled Reed at the Faculty Appreciation event during a game on December 2nd.

Baltus, a senior major in Finance who started this year with a 3.73 GPA, named Reed as “the best professor he had encountered” at Michigan Tech. Baltus had taken a couple of classes from her during his first two years in statistics and math and added she was “an unbelievable professor.”

Seely asked Reed what she does that would lead a good student (and athlete) like Brent to value her efforts. She answered with several points from the recently submitted students teaching evaluations for Fall 2016 and offered several points. Reed knows every student’s name, signaling that they are individuals to her. This makes her approachable and shows she cares about them as people. She prepares a handout for every class session containing the concepts, problems, formulas and so on covered that day. This allows students to actually listen in class rather than struggling to write everything down. Her handout adds structure to the notes taken by the students while eliminating transcription errors. Reed dedicates some class periods to worksheet days, devoted to working problems while she walks around and answers questions from students.

Finally, she asks a lot of questions of the students during class sessions. Students report this makes them pay attention (especially at 8 a.m.). When a student offers an incorrect answer, she talks them through the process until they get to the correct answer. Seely also asked Reed if there was something she did that specifically helps student athletes, who must miss classes due to travel.

In addition to her willingness to meet with them outside of class, she noted the most important thing was to ask them to introduce themselves on the first day of class. That allows her to work with them and their schedules. From this initial discussion, it is much easier to ensure Reed has a heads-up when an assignment and/or exam might conflict with games and travel. Such communication allows her and the student to work around any conflicts.

These are the kinds of effort — small steps in some respects, but large in the aggregate — that make a difference in how well students do. While a student-athlete recognized Reed’s efforts, the more important fact is that she makes these attempts for any student.

Reed will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 11 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative teaching methods or work in curriculum and assessment.

New faculty joins Mathematical Sciences this semester

Today, we take a look at and welcome faculty who have started with the Fall Semester.

image143207-persJohn Gruver, PhD

John Gruver joins Michigan Tech’s Mathematical Sciences Department as an assistant professor. Gruver received a PhD in Mathematics Education in a joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego.

He previously worked as a research assistant at the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment, and Teaching Excellence at the University of California, San Diego. Gruver has also worked as an instructor at San Diego State University, providing upcoming elementary educators with additional skills to be used when teaching mathematics. He also mentored student teachers at Brigham Young University. Among his many awards and publications, Gruver is a Winter 2015 Graduate Student Association Travel Grant winner.


image118342-persJie Sun, PhD

Jie Sun joins Michigan Tech’s Mathematical Sciences Department as an assistant professor. Sun is no stranger to Michigan Tech. She has been here since 2013 as a visiting assistant professor.

Sun earned a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, in 2009. She has also worked as an instructor at Michigan Tech and at the University of California, Berkeley. Sun served as a member of the organizing committee for the first annual Kliakhandler conference in 2015. She has received multiple awards in teaching and research.



image113156-persZeying Wang, PhD

Zeying Wang joins Tech’s Mathematical Sciences Department as an assistant professor. She has worked as a lecturer at Michigan Tech since 2012. She also served as a visiting assistant professor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.

Wang supervised an undergraduate research project and presentation, as well as serving on the departmental undergraduate committee at Tech. She has worked as an instructor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio; Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; and University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.



Teresa Woods, MS

Teresa Woods joins Michigan Tech’s Mathematical Sciences Department as a lecturer. She received a BS in Chemical Engineering and Secondary Education at Tech. She obtained an MS from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is currently completing an MS in Applied Sciences at Michigan Tech, with an expected graduation date of 2017.

Woods has worked as a graduate teaching assistant and an instructor in Tech’s Department of Mathematical Sciences. She has worked as a health data researcher for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and an online mathematics instructor for the Community College of Vermont. She also worked as a performance consultant with Vermont Technical College in Essex Junction, Vermont.

David Olson this weeks Props for Profs Winner

image39658-persOur final Jackson CTL Props for Profs Winner for Spring 2016 is David Olson—senior lecturer in Mathematical Sciences.

Olson’s nominator emphasized that he not only makes class “fun and informative,” but that he leaves “real, helpful notes on your work.”

The nominator also found Olson’s connection to students exceptional, allowing him to “really notice when you need help.”

Perhaps most importantly, the nominator felt that Olson did an exceptional job of maintaining this strong connection well beyond when students leave his classroom.

Olson and his nominator will each receive a $5 gift certificate to purchase a snack or beverage at the Library Café or several other locations on campus.

by Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

Dr. Piret this weeks Props for Profs winner

image111742-persThis week’s Jackson CTL Props for Profs Winner is Cécile Piret, an assistant professor in Mathematical Sciences. Piret’s anonymous nominator praised the way she went above and beyond with “many review sessions before tests and long office hours.”

Even though Piret was teaching the class for the first time, the nominator felt that she put in “a lot of effort” and perhaps more importantly “asked for student input and used that information to try to make her class better.”

Piret and her nominator will each receive a $5 gift certificate to purchase a snack or drink at the Library Café or several other locations on campus.


Creative Canvas Course Contest (C-4) Winners Announced

Dr. Todd King was selected as one of the eight spring 2015 CTL Creative Canvas Course Contest (C-4) winners.

This spring semester, the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning hosted an explosive program intended to showcase the most effective and user-friendly Canvas Courses at Michigan Tech. The third-annual C-4 competition focused on Canvas courses that are intuitive and easy to navigate, feature good course design, provide convenient access to information and materials students need and offer resources and activities that help students succeed in class. Canvas courses were nominated almost entirely by students, but other faculty and chairs were eligible to nominate Spring 2015 term courses for C-4 too.

Congratulations to this year’s C4 winners:

  • Laura Brown (CS 4821)
  • Steve Elmer (EH 5310)
  • A.J. Hamlin (ENG 1102)
  • Amber Kemppainen (ENG 1102)
  • Todd King (MA 3520)
  • Bryan Lagalo (EC 3002)
  • Chelsea Schelly (SS 4001)
  • Leo Ureel II (CS 1121)

From Tech Today

Dean’s Teaching Showcase

Dean Bruce Seely of the College of Sciences and Arts has chosen to recognize David Olson, a senior lecturer in mathematical sciences as the final Dean’s Teaching Showcase member for spring 2015.

Dean Seely commented on this selection by saying, “Up to this point I have selected younger faculty whose ideas and approaches seem naturally to align with the national patterns of past practices in the class room. For the third selection, however, I am focusing on a person whose demonstration of sustained excellence in teaching and instruction should motivate everyone–David Olson. He has been a leader in teaching in a department noted for excellence. He has taken on the task of adding the necessary knowledge and the external certifications of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) that allow him to guide the department’s actuarial sciences concentration. He has helped advise majors and served on numerous curricular committees. But the most important reason for recognizing Olson is the length of time he has been so good.”

Olson’s initial reaction to Seely’s nomination was “Yikes, I’ve been here 20 years. How did that happen?” But his second reaction was more serious and significant, for it signals the reality of the challenge university faculty face in the classroom. “Teaching technology is progressing so rapidly that I’m hopelessly far behind,” he noted, before adding “If anyone is not hopelessly far behind, they’re not paying attention. I’m sometimes on the bleeding edge, like when Canvas came out, but mostly I look for items where the process just got simpler, like recording class for student-athletes. BIG change, and one that will make it much easier to put together videos.”

Seely sees this technology question as “an obvious conundrum for faculty today.” He and Olson agree that it’s not enough just to know “what the newest ideas and approaches are.” Instructors need to find out “…which ones make sense for the needs at Michigan Tech.” Seely emphasizes, “Novelty for its own sake almost never makes sense in such a dynamic environment. DavidO’s key understanding is that technology needs to facilitate student learning.”

In order to help with this process, Olson focuses on interaction. “My biggest trick is that I listen to students, face-to-face. How is the class going? Concerns? Are there any issues that aren’t clear? What’s really helping you learn? Do you have a good study group? How’s life? What’s your favorite movie? Every now and then a student tells me that some random classroom activity really helped, and so I’ll do more of it, and ask other students whether it’s helping them.” Moreover, Olson notes the vital necessity of talking to other faculty members as well to find out what they are trying, what’s working, and what’s not.

The point is that Olson is never satisfied. “In that last desperate 15 minutes before class, I’m usually asking myself the following questions: ‘What am I trying to accomplish? What activities might work?’ Experiment. Tweak, tweak, tweak.”

The final gauge of this desire to always seek better outcomes can be found in Olson’s last comment. “I have dreams of a revolution, a new STEM sequence that takes advantage of what’s now possible with multimedia and the internet: Scientific Modeling with Calculus and Computers.”  Seely indicates that this goal matches nicely with some ideas circulating within the department, so he fully expects to see such a class take shape in the near future. Seely emphasizes, “But at root, this initiative will grow from Olson’s constant drive to do things better to help students learn.”

Olson will be formally recognized with the 11 other Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominees at a luncheon during 14th week. Please join Dean Seely and the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in thanking Olson for his outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the College of Sciences and Arts.

From Tech Today

GSG Award Winners – Mathematical Sciences

The Graduate School and Graduate Student Government proudly announce the 2014-2015 academic year winners (see Tech Today for all winners).

Shuaimin Kang (MS candidate, Applied Mathematics) and Rachel Rupnow (MS candidate, Pure Mathematics) received the Outstanding Scholarship Award recognizing academic performance in areas such as excellent GPA, originality in research, leadership and teamwork.  Bryan Freyberg (PhD candidate, Discrete Mathematics) and Ethan Novak (PhD candidate, Discrete Mathematics) received the Outstanding Teaching Award recognizing graduate students who have exhibited exceptional ability as a teacher, have received excellent evaluations from students, as well as gaining the respect of faculty in their departments.

From Tech Today