Colorado State University - Pueblo math educator earns regional teaching award

Colorado State University - Pueblo math educator earns regional teaching award

PUEBLO –  Janet Nichols, associate professor of mathematics at Colorado State University-Pueblo, has been named the recipient of the Burton Jones Award for Distinguished Teaching, presented by the Rocky Mountain Section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). She was selected from nominations throughout Colorado, South Dakota west of the Missouri River, Wyoming, and part of Montana.

She is the first CSU-Pueblo professor to earn the honor since the award began in 1992 and will  be honored on April 13 at a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Section of the MAA in Denver.

Math Department Chair Frank Zizza said Nichols’ course teaching evaluations are exemplary, with high marks for “making good use of class time, encouraging critical thinking, maintaining high standards, facilitating class participation and for being available for assistance outside of class.” He said he frequently is approached by K-12 colleagues who express appreciation for Nichols’ efforts in the community and the profession. Former students speak glowingly about the quality of her instruction and her mentorship throughout their careers, often speaking of her as “the best teacher they ever had.”

Throughout her 35-year tenure at the University, Nichols has established a reputation as an excellent teacher who has consistently attracted large number of students to her courses.

“Despite her high expectations, or perhaps because of them, students often will delay taking a required course until she is assigned to teach it, knowing they will obtain the level of mastery that they need to be successful in their chosen field of study,” said Math Department colleague Janet Barnett. “She is sought after by students across a wide variety of courses -- from those for prospective elementary teachers to courses for prospective engineers and from college algebra to advance number theory.”
Nichols regularly contributes her expertise in cutting-edge graphing calculator technology and established an innovative student rental program for the expensive advanced calculators. She has made significant contributions both to the department’s and the University’s curriculum development as chair of the curriculum board. Nichols was the recipient of the 2011 Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching at CSU-Pueblo for her contributions to the University, which range from curricular development to extensive encouragement and mentorship of students.

Her influence extends beyond the institution as well. For 34 years, Math Day has attracted high school students from across Colorado to the math competition and demonstrations, sparking
interest and curiosity in the profession. From 1994-98, she was a co-facilitator of CONNECT, an NSF funded initiative to facilitate adoption of new math and science standards in area schools. Just this year, she was part of a four-person team that wrote the CSU-Pueblo Robert Noyce Scholarship: Meeting the K-12 Mathematics Educational Needs of Southeastern Colorado proposal, which was funded by the NSF for five years at $1.26 million to strengthen 7-12 mathematics achievement by providing incentives and support to attract undergraduate and post-baccalaureate professionals to the teaching profession. She is the project manager for the grant.

Nichols’ nomination was accompanied by many letters from colleagues and former students alike. Unsolicited comments by former students celebrate her positive influences on their lives, including their choice of the teaching profession and their continuing enthusiasm for mathematics.

In 1991, the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America established
Section Awards for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics to recognize
extraordinary teachers of mathematics at the post-secondary level. The Rocky Mountain Section Award is named in honor of Burton W. Jones, a lifelong advocate of excellence in teaching and strong supporter of the MAA.

Each year, a four-member selection committee chooses an award recipient from
nominations made by the section membership. Recipients are outstanding teachers who foster
student curiosity and excitement about mathematics, who have teaching effectiveness that can be documented, and who have had influence through their teaching beyond their institution.

Nominees and their nominators receive complimentary meeting registration at that year’s section meeting (including banquet fees for the awardee and awardee’s nominator). All nominators also receive a certificate of appreciation in recognition of their efforts to promote excellence in teaching. The awardee is honored with a certificate and $271.82 honorarium at that year’s Section Meeting, and is invited to deliver the opening lecture at the next year’s Section Meeting. This individual also serves a one-year term on the Award Selection Committee and becomes the Section Nominee for the Deborah and Franklin Haimo Awards for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. These national awardees (at most three) are honored at the MAA winter meeting with a certificate and $1000 check.