My family has a long, almost dynastic history with the UW Colleges. I am professor of Math at UW-Marathon County, was one of several siblings who all attended UW-Marathon County before transferring to UW-Madison. That lineage led to many different career paths, but for me, after several years as an engineer, my recollection of my time at UW-Marathon started the journey back to my first alma mater.
I was working for a couple years and while I was working I thought back to my years here actually when I was a student. I was thinking of some of the math teachers I had, Larry Olson and Philip Gillette, and they seemed to be really happy with what they were doing…and I thought, ‘that’d be kind of a neat thing to do’.
I took the first steps to achieve that goal and decided to return to graduate school. I entered the math program almost by accident, they just happened to be the program to come through with funding first. In retrospect, math would’ve been my first choice anyway, and my passion for the subject is evident.
I like the simplicity of mathematics. I studied a lot of chemistry in my chemical engineering program and I found at some point there’s a lot of, it seemed like a lot of memorization…I like the structure and the logic, kind of the cohesiveness of mathematics.
I have taught at UW-Marathon County for the past 22 years. I have taught every level of math, from early algebra to higher level courses like Calculus III. I helped in creating the successful developmental math education along with with Professor Shubhangi Stalder at UW-Waukesha. This course has drastically improved the performance of many developmental students on each campus.
I don’t get to teach the highest level math classes I took as an undergrad, but I appreciate how I’ve been able to give back to a university that helped me start out in higher education. When I was in high school I kind of ran out of math courses when I was a senior. One of the things I was hoping to do was try to build some connections to high schools and offer, try to take the first year of college out to advance students at senior level in high school, and that’s something I’ve actually been able to do.
I also try to ensure my students don’t lose sight of the real world applications for mathematics, recognizing that students can quickly get lost in abstraction. I try to make the math real, I mean at the lower levels I try to connect it as much as I can to students’ lives. I tell my students once you start memorizing stuff, you don’t understand it then. It’s not fun anymore.