By Mike Meyers | Published May 24, 2017
Learning the names of all her students may not seem significant. But it is one of the factors students cite as what makes Beth Reed an outstanding educator.
Beth Reed, a senior lecturer in the Mathematical Sciences Department of Michigan Technological University, is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice category.
Reed, who is also assistant to the department chair, has been teaching mathematical sciences at Tech since 1985 and has been recognized at the departmental level multiple times for both her teaching and her service. This year she was named to the Deans’ Teaching Showcase.
Reed began her academic career in forestry, earning a master’s in forest biometrics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1982. She joined Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science in January of 1983 as a research associate working on four different research projects before moving to the Department of Mathematical Sciences in 1985.
Reed says the secret to her success lies, in part, in her effort to “personalize” her classroom. Though many of her classes have almost 60 students, she learns every student’s name. She say, “I expect and actually get interaction from almost everyone. It really helps that I can call on each person by name. and if they don’t know the answer, I can turn to their neighbor and ask them to help out.”
Her students echo the value of this individual attention. As one student puts it, “She learns everyone’s names and calls on them in class. She tries to include everyone and ask everyone questions. She also has a friendly environment, is easily approachable and easy to listen to.”
Students applaud the structure and the organization of Reed’s classes. One student writes, “She sends an email every Friday laying out the schedule for the next week, which allows preparation.” Reed states she likes to let her students know what to expect, which enables them to focus on “concentrating on the problems rather than worrying about taking notes.”
“Beth is simply an excellent teacher …”Mark Gockenbach
Reed finds ways to give plenty of feedback both in and outside of class, using “worksheet days” that are dedicated to students working on statistical problems in small groups individually. “I am there to answer questions as they come up,” she explains. “We meet at the end of class and go over the entire worksheet so that all students have a corrected version as they leave class. The act of doing statistics rather than listening and/or talking about it has served them well.”
Again, her students confirm the value of this frequent and specific feedback, writing “Professor Reed gives great feedback, in class, on homework assignments and on exams. I am never left confused about why I was marked down on an assignment, and I can always find an answer or clarification to problems.”
Mark Gockenbach, chair of mathematical sciences, echoes the organized, caring and constantly improving nature of Reed’s teaching. “Beth is simply an excellent teacher—clear, organized, intentional and reflective. She cares about her students and makes an effort to establish a personal connection with each of them, while still holding them to a high standard. Students respond to her enthusiastic and caring style, and I admire the fact that she is still trying to improve her courses even though she has taught them many times before.”
Perhaps the biggest reason for Reed’s success is her desire to motivate as many students as possible to be successful. One student quote summarizes this. “She makes me want to learn. She makes me feel welcome and comfortable. She has respect for all of her students, and we all have respect for her.”
Reed will receive a $2,500 monetary award and a plaque at an awards dinner sponsored by University President Glenn Mroz in the fall. Scott Miers, an associate professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, received the Distinguished Teaching Award in the Associate Professor/Professor category this year.