During the 2018-2019 academic year, the department conducted a national search for two full-time lecturers, who would join the seven existing faculty members holding the ranks of principal lecturer, senior lecturer, and lecturer. Lecturers play a central role in the department's mission, providing leadership in teaching, developing new pedagogies, mentoring of teaching assistants, serving on departmental committees, and much more. The two candidates who emerged from the search—Elena Pezzoli and Natalie Naehrig— were already among us, having occupied the position of part-time lecturer since 2000 and 2014. Below, each reflects on her path to UW and what lies ahead.
I grew up in Italy, where I completed the bulk of my undergraduate studies, except for one year I spent at UC Berkeley as an exchange student. I then went on to obtain my PhD in Mathematics from Stanford University under the direction of Professors Solomon Feferman and Phokion Kolaitis (then a Professor in the Computer Science Department at UC Santa Cruz). My research was in the areas of Computational Complexity and Logic. After Stanford, I taught at Boston College, where I got interested in Computational Biology, and then for many years at the University of Washington as a part-time lecturer, with a brief pause when my second son was born. I have taught a variety of courses, including Calculus and Precalculus, Linear Algebra, Real Analysis, and Mathematical Reasoning, one of my favorites.
As a new full-time lecturer, I welcome the opportunity to continue doing what I love: to keep learning, whether by reading a math research article or listening to a talk about innovative teaching assessment and methods, and to collaborate more closely with members of the department. In an ever-changing society—where students’ background knowledge, expectations, and needs keep changing at a fast pace—it is very important to adapt and to keep modifying course contents and teaching practices. But this can be a difficult task. It is therefore crucial to rely on collaboration and to create tools to facilitate this effort: whether it is a common course web page, teaching blogs to share experiences, or a technology committee to explore and disseminate possible uses of technology in the classroom.
I look forward to tackling the challenge of evolving the teaching and learning process so as to make the material more digestible for the students and, in turn, to help the students feel more confident and excited about mathematics.
I am originally from a mid-sized and very old German city called Aachen, located right at the border of the Netherlands and Belgium. I studied at the RWTH Aachen University and finished my PhD under the supervision of Professor Gerhard Hiss in 2008. It was in 2010 that I first visited the University of Washington to give a seminar talk. Who would have thought that only two years later my family and I would be moving to the Seattle area altogether? In 2014, I started a part-time lecturer position in the department with great excitement. I have always enjoyed teaching because of the interaction with students. Their evolution as mathematicians and sparking interest reinforced my enthusiasm about mathematics. While still in Germany, I volunteered at the local elementary school to organize a math club. The kids would learn about negative numbers by walking up and down the school’s stairways. I still smile at the experiences I had with those curious and adventurous kids.
After starting my lecturer position here, I quickly noticed that teaching is about engaging students, confronting their brains with problems that are within their reach, encouraging them through struggle to develop grit. I submerged myself in Evidence-Based-Learning methods. Through UW’s Center for Teaching and Learning, I have met many other lecturers and professors who also try to turn away from “up-front-teaching” to a student-engaging way that has been shown to be more lasting and more effective.
Another of my interests is the issue of diversity and underrepresented minorities, which is especially important in mathematics and science. I am thrilled that as a full-time lecturer this year, I was asked to be part of the department’s Diversity Committee. Helping to form the department’s policies in this area adds much value to my work beyond my teaching-only role as a part-time lecturer. My plans in upcoming quarters include setting up courses aimed specifically at underrepresented minorities.
Believe it or not, I have a personal life, too! With a husband, four boys ranging in age from 6 to 20, and two male dogs, my life is very active and full of surprises on a daily basis. I am proud that Lukas, my oldest, is also a Husky and very much enjoying his life on campus. My husband and I share one hobby, dancing Argentine tango . Alas, my dancing does not (yet) look as elegant as you might envision Argentine tango to be. I never cease to be amazed by the beauty of this state. I love the lakes, the forests, and the natural ocean shores that are all just around the corner from Seattle.
In the future, I hope to continue to evolve as an evidence-based-learning lecturer, commit to improving issues around minorities, and make mathematicians out of students who would never have thought that could happen.