By Brian A. Boecherer
Get to know our faculty and learn some tricks of the trade with advice they have to offer. Here our Faculty Coordinator in Mathematics answers questions about his personal and professional interests as well as how he has transitioned to teaching during these challenging times.
Q. How long teaching at UConn?
A. I started August 2015
Q. How long in Teaching?
A. I taught my first class (officially) in August 2009
Q. Favorite course you teach at UConn and why?
A. Decisions…let’s say Math 1030Q (Elementary Discrete Mathematics) because it may be my last chance to change someone’s outlook on math for the rest of their life.
Q. Tell us why you got into teaching and a bit about how you see your role as a teacher?
A. I used to stay after school to do free tutoring in math in high school, and I continued tutoring regularly throughout undergrad
at Ball State University. I got a chance to fill in for a professor for a class of Differential Equations for a week who was away at a conference, and that experience solidified for me my love of teaching math. I went to graduate school at Purdue University, and surprise surprise, but I loved teaching classes there and tutoring still whenever I could. I live to see a student’s “aha” moment, and I strive to create a classroom environment that is both fun and helps shift students from a fixed mindset to that of a growth mindset.
Q. You won the Thomas E. Recchio Faculty Coordinator Award for Academic Leadership this past year. What would you say is core to your philosophy as Faculty Coordinator of Mathematics?
A. I wholeheartedly believe in running a program that is flexible and attentive to the needs of both the students and teachers. This past year, in particular, has been tremendously difficult for everyone, but it led to several unprecedented situations and abrupt changes-in-schedule that were disruptive in completing the standard ECE curriculum for the math courses and giving assessments in the usual way. We all made it work and worked within the parameters that we had (which varied significantly from school district to school district!), and I thank everyone teaching ECE Mathematics and in the ECE Office for their support and advice as we navigated that challenge together!
Q. As the youngest winner of this award, what advice would you give to other young professionals about leadership?
A. Listen. I think that listening and being receptive to feedback and change are among the most important aspects of being a good leader. Over the last few years, I have encountered various policies, regulations, and rules that seem to be no longer working, worth maintaining, or are not worth the time cost for the little gain, so I have heard that feedback and made various changes while not sacrificing the rigor of the program and the consistency that we strive for with the UConn Mathematics courses.
Q. Your teaching methodologies are legend at UConn, tell me one thing you do that you think is especially cool.
A. Legend, huh? I guess landing myself in a few Reddit posts that went viral counts, but that’s for another time…I started doing a “bad math joke of the day” in my Multivariable Calculus courses, which I taught for about five years straight. When I recorded videos for an online version of the course back in 2018, I made sure to record all of the jokes to create the same experience. I now regularly teach Differential Equations, and many of my students, coming from my Multi course, ask if I also do bad jokes in that class. After years of wearing me down, I finally gave in and created a “bad joke of the week” for that class as well, with each joke completely different from those in Multi! Students regularly tell me in course feedback that this is their favorite part of the course(s). Am I just a joke to them? 😉
Q. Many in our UConn ECE Community watched the awards ceremony and many of our teacher’s and staff’s children believe you are the real Spiderman. Can you offer a comment to our community?
A. You forgot the hyphen in my name; it’s “Spider-Man”…I mean… *cough* his name.