Professor Daniel Showalter, who teaches mathematics at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), is the 2021 recipient of the John M. Smith Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching. The award is given out by the Mathematical Association of America’s Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. division to professors who are “widely recognized as extraordinarily successful in their teaching” and have influence beyond their own institution, according to the organization’s website.
He will also be the region’s nominee for the national Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. That selection process begins March 1, 2022.
In the awards ceremony, Professor Ethan Duckworth of Loyola University Maryland, who serves on the selection committee, shared a few examples of praise from former students: Best instructor in the world … An incredible professor … Daniel does a fantastic job of making connections and making the topic come to life through story and examples.
“To me, this award is a product of the student-centered culture that flourishes here at EMU,” Showalter said. “Nearly all of my teaching strategies and approaches were born out of feedback from students or a discussion with a colleague.”
Showalter was nominated for the award by Professor Owen Byer, who wrote in the nomination letter that Showalter is one of EMU’s “most beloved and effective faculty members … I have seen first-hand how much students in all of his [his] classes love him, in no small part because they know how much he cares about them and their learning.”
The topical application of mathematics was one of Showalter’s pedagogies that the selection committee found most impressive.
“Each of [his] quizzes has a theme of social importance,” Duckworth relayed from another supporter. “Each begins with an engaging class discussion, and then the students analyze and interpret related, authentic data on such topics as gender equity, racial discrimination in hiring, child poverty, and depression and suicide.”
Of course, Showalter is so good at teaching these uses of mathematics because he practices what he preaches. One example from his impressive body of published research is the study Showalter led on rural schools’ strengths and challenges, which made national news.
Showalter was the 2020 recipient of the university’s Excellence in Teaching Award for tenured faculty.