NMSU Professor Wins Statewide Teaching Award

Las Cruces – New Mexico State University Mathematics Professor David Pengelley has been selected as the 2010 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching New Mexico Professor of the Year based on his impact, involvement and scholarly approach to his undergraduate students.

"To receive this award was an honor," said Pengelley. "What's really nice about this award is its recognition of innovative things being done in the classroom. There is wonderful teamwork within the college and I couldn't accomplish everything I do alone."

In 2009, Pengelley received the Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics from the Mathematical Association of America, as well as NMSU's prestigious Westhafer Award for Excellence in Teaching.

His active classroom pedagogy is very untraditional and includes student projects and advance student reading, writing and preparing mathematical work before class time, allowing for a non-lecture style classroom.

"Moving away from lecturing is the most challenging change I have ever made," said Pengelley. "I now base my teaching on students' advance writing on reading questions and warm-up exercises, in-class group work, presentations, discussion and final homework. It enables me to engage the class, and I am amazed that student writing and mathematical analysis improves the more I expect it of them."

While Pengelley had never heard of the Carnegie Foundation's award, Tara Gray, project director of the Teaching Academy, after hearing about Pengelley's teaching style, thought he would be the perfect candidate for the award.

"The lecture-textbook trap is a vicious cycle in which students don't read because they know we will lecture and we lecture because we know students won't read. Pengelley has found a way round that cycle," said Gray. "To do away with that is a brilliant idea and I always want to promote all of our good teachers."

Then-acting Provost Jay Jordan put forward the nomination for Pengelley, working with Gray.

Pengelley is currently on sabbatical conducting research in algebraic topology, which is sometimes called rubber sheet geometry, and in the history of mathematics in which he has closely studied the manuscripts of Sophie Germain, who conducted important research on number theory in the early 1800s that was never published.

Pengelley will begin teaching again in the spring with courses in abstract algebra and number theory, which will be based on the manuscripts Pengelley is currently studying. This is part of another major innovative thrust of his teaching, in which students learn mathematics by studying primary historical sources in the discipline.

Pengelley has published 24 articles and three books that help faculty teach mathematics with research projects and with historical sources. The books include "Student Research Projects in Calculus," "Mathematical Expeditions" and "Mathematical Masterpieces." These books have had a far-reaching impact on teachers and students across the country and around the world.

The Professor of the Year awards program celebrates outstanding instructors across the country and is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate education.