Duffy award winner: Fidele Ngwane
Mathematics professor tries to connect material to real life
By Page Ivey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-3085
Ph.D. in mathematics from Auburn University
2021 Duffy Excellence in Teaching award
Joined UofSC Salkehatchie in 2010
Even though I got my Ph.D. in 2010, I went back to school while also teaching full time to get my master's in applied statistics. I could see from both the student’s and the teacher’s perspective simultaneously. The biggest thing is to explain why a certain concept works in life — why we do it a certain way. Especially in statistics, if you don't give the answer to “Why?” it doesn't make much sense.
With my students, I just let them talk. When you let them talk, you can always figure out something from what they're saying that you can use to relate to the concept or material that you want to teach that day.
In the classroom, a lot of times students are not so confident. What I do is break it down so simple that they can relate to it. You don't need to give them something hard because they're going to get lost. They're just going to get discouraged and give up. So you give them something simple they can easily connect to and can easily understand. From that point, you have their attention and you can move on. Then you step up the challenge level. They can be aiming at that next challenge. That way they are inspired.
Over the course of my career, I've learned that every student is different. You just have to be patient with students. Every semester is different. Every student is different. It's not one size fits all.
You come into the classroom with everything you've learned from grad school, all the preparation, but you get in there and realize maybe it does not work. You have to meet them at their level, then work with them to get them to the next level.
I have students who have gone on to work in their communities. And they are so proud and their parents are so proud of the opportunity we have given them. They really appreciate the faculty attention that they have on a small campus like ours.
The COVID-19 school year was an outlier, but even without that it's different every year. So each time you go in there, be ready to do something different. Technology is always changing. Each generation is different. It’s not harder, it’s just different and you have to be ready to adapt.
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