The Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics 72nd Annual Conference recognized Patton College of Education faculty members Dr. Courtney Koestler and Dr. Gregory Foley for their outstanding dedication to mathematics teaching. The award ceremony took place on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in Sharonville, Ohio.
Koestler, the Patton College’s director of the OHIO Center for Equity in Mathematics and Science (OCEMS) and associate professor of instruction, received the Kenneth Cummins Award. This award is given to a college teacher for exemplary mathematics teaching and/or mathematics education in the state of Ohio.
“I am very honored to be chosen by the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics for this award, and I appreciate my colleagues who nominated me,” said Koestler.
Koestler’s nomination came from local elementary school teachers and several mathematics teacher education professors.
As an undergraduate, Koestler was originally interested in pursuing a career as an actuary (professional mathematician) until a professor recommended to them to explore teaching as a possible career path.
“A math professor suggested that I consider math education because I was such a social person and enjoyed tutoring others in math. He encouraged me to take math methods in the college of education,” said Koestler. “I was excited and amazed at the amount of mathematical understanding teachers needed to know to be able to teach mathematics well. That started me on a path to becoming a teacher.”
For seven years Koestler taught in the classroom as well as serving aa a math coach in culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse communities. Those experiences shaped their personal philosophy to teaching.
“I believe that we, as teachers, must acknowledge that everyone is ‘a math person’ so we must seek out the unique knowledge and experiences they bring to the classroom and connect to and build on it to connect to the content we want them to learn. This assets-based approach, which focuses on the strengths which people have and the forms of knowledge they bring to the classroom, is an effective way to support the learning and growth of all students,” said Koestler.
Since their move back to Ohio in 2014, Koestler has been serving the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics (OCTM), as a board member since 2015, the council’s Southeast District Director and more recently the vice president of the organization. They have also led several efforts to focus on issues of equity and diversity more fully, and currently serves on the OCTM Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force.
The second Patton College faculty member receiving an award was Foley, who serves as the Robert L. Morton Professor of Mathematics Education. Foley received the Christofferson-Fawcett Award by the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics for a lifetime contribution to mathematics education.
“This is a special honor because I have such great respect for the prior recipients, many of whom I have worked with closely and who were (or are) my mentors. The list includes former presidents of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and both former Morton Professors Len Pikaart and Jim Schultz,” said Foley.
Presenting the award to Foley was Professor Richard Little, who received the award in 1990.
The Christofferson-Fawcett award is presented annually to a member of the Ohio Council of Teachers of Mathematics for a lifetime contribution to mathematics education. The recipient is recognized for outstanding and inspirational professional service to the mathematics community.
Foley received B.A. and M.A. degrees in mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in mathematics education also from The University of Texas at Austin. His scholarly interests include cognitively demanding tasks, inquiry-based instruction, tools and technology to enhance student construction of knowledge, and spatial thinking, all of which has informed his personal philosophy of teaching mathematics.
“I believe that students learn mathematics by engaging in interesting and challenging problems that help them make sense of ideas in their own mind. Teaching mathematics is about asking the right questions at just the right time,” said Foley.
It is that same student-focused approach Foley sees becoming the norm in the future.
“School and university mathematics is moving slowly but surely toward an inquiry-based, student-centered approach. The intention of my work is to support such an approach to the teaching and learning of mathematics,” explained Foley.
In June of 2023, Foley will meet with other past award recipients to unanimously select the next Christofferson-Fawcett awardee.