#NISODProfiles – Jeffrey Mudrock
“I love the fact that every day I get the opportunity to help diverse groups of students discover the power and beauty of mathematics. I get no greater joy than hearing from a student that he or she became more interested in mathematics or fell in love with mathematics because of the role that I played in his or her education.”
#NISODProfiles | March 7, 2019
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for 7 years.
What is your favorite part about being a community college educator?
As a community college math instructor, I love the fact that every day I get the opportunity to help diverse groups of students discover the power and beauty of mathematics. I get no greater joy than hearing from a student that he or she became more interested in mathematics or fell in love with mathematics because of the role that I played in his or her education.
What is your best piece of advice for new or existing colleagues at community or technical colleges in your field?
The best piece of advice I have ever been given about teaching was: “You have to teach the students you have, not the students you wish you had.” I am head-over-heels in love with mathematics, but the classes that I teach are diverse and many of my students see mathematics much differently than I do. As a result, I try to meet my students where they are at in their mathematical journey, and to do everything I can to cater to the specific needs of my students.
How do you connect with your students?
When I think about the importance of connecting with students, the old adage, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” comes to mind. I make it a point to show gratitude to any student willing to make a conjecture or offer up a new idea in my classroom. I also strive to learn about the specific goals and aspirations of my students by encouraging them to come to my office hours just so that I can learn more about them.
Share a memorable teaching experience and explain why it was so impactful.
While pursuing my doctorate (which I recently completed), I developed several mathematical research questions in the field of graph theory that I knew were accessible to undergraduate students. To allow undergraduates to address those questions, I created a course at my institution that offers any student who has exhausted the mathematics curriculum the opportunity to pursue original research in the field. I taught this course during Summer 2018 and Fall 2018, during which my students discovered an original result! (Specifically, they discovered a simple characterization of the equitable choosability of complete bipartite graphs that have a partite set of size at most two.)
Witnessing my students make an original contribution to the field of mathematics put me in a state of euphoria. Often when mathematics is taught, students spend all their time learning about the great contributions of mathematicians of the past. Through this experience, my students got to play the role of the mathematician. They creatively attacked a problem using various techniques, all the while knowing that they could not find the answer on the internet or in a textbook. In the end, they successfully solved the problem, and I could tell that conquering it filled them with confidence in their problem-solving abilities and gave them a great sense of accomplishment.
Every month, NISOD profiles faculty and staff from our member colleges who are doing extraordinary work on their campuses. #NISODProfiles offer a direct connection to your colleagues from across the world who exemplify NISOD’s mission of improving teaching, learning, and leadership.