CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University mathematics professor Kathy M.C. Ivey has been named one of the best teachers in The University of North Carolina system, drawing praise from faculty colleagues and students for finding new and different ways to teach the sometimes fear-inducing topic of mathematics.
A faculty member at Western since 1994, Ivey is among 16 recipients in the eighth annual Awards for Excellence in Teaching, to be presented by the UNC Board of Governors at a special recognition luncheon in May. Winners each receive a commemorative bronze medallion and a $7,500 cash prize.
An associate professor of mathematics, Ivey was selected for the honor in recognition of her work with pre-service and in-service teachers of math, helping them find exciting new non-traditional techniques to use in their public school classrooms. Drawing from her own classroom experience, she shares ways to incorporate fun, hands-on activities that are designed to demonstrate real-world applications of abstract mathematical concepts.
“My colleague (Julia Barnes, an assistant professor of mathematics at Western) and I have created two ‘Mathematical Murder Mysteries’ for our students to solve, complete with clues hidden around the mathematics department,” Ivey said. “We also developed a game night where students and faculty compete in mathematics games based on popular TV game shows.”
Ivey, who sits on the editorial boards of several mathematics education publications, works with public schools and professional organizations across the state, region and nation to strengthen mathematics education, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Mathematical Association of America, N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics and N.C. Association of Mathematics.
The recipient last year of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Western’s highest teaching honor, Ivey has been commended for her ability to convert “math-phobes” into students with confidence and competence in their mathematical understandings and abilities.
She earned her doctoral degree in mathematics education from Washington State University in 1994, her master’s degree in mathematics from Oregon State University in 1990, and her bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State in 1981. She taught high school mathematics in Wytheville, Va., before completing her advanced degrees and becoming a university professor.
A finalist for the WCU Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998 and 2000, she received the College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award in 2000. Prior to her arrival at Western, she received the Teaching Assistant Excellence Award for Independent Instruction from Washington State University in 1992 and the Graduate Teaching Assistant Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics from Oregon State University in 1989.
Recipients of UNC awards were nominated by special committees on their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors Committee on Teaching Awards, chaired by Ruth Dial Woods of Pembroke. The awards will be presented by UNC President Molly Corbett Broad and Board of Governors Chairman Benjamin S. Ruffin of Winston-Salem.
Established by the Board of Governors in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the university system, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years, and no one may receive the award more than once.