Wednesday Mar 19, 2014
By Ric Burrous
For many college students, mathematics courses are dry and to be endured. But Jon Becker has higher aspirations for the students he teaches as a lecturer in mathematics and actuarial science at IU Northwest.
Those feelings come honestly for Becker, who earned both B.S. and M.S. degrees in secondary education from IU Northwest in 1988 and 1996, respectively.
Becker loves to share his passion for the intricacies of math with the students in his classes, often using pop culture references to illustrate the everyday role that mathematics plays in our lives.
The veteran lecturer has won many teaching awards through the years on the Northwest campus, according to Itzok Hozo, chair of the mathematics and actuarial sciences department, and is consistently praised by his students, who have called him energetic, a great teacher, and “the first math teacher I’ve had that I actually learned something from.”
Becker notes that his teaching style has grown deeper and richer through his involvement with Indiana University’s acclaimed Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) program.
“I was inducted into FACET in 2002, and the world of teaching expertise unfolded in front of me in ways that I had not experienced before,” Becker says. “I learned through FACET that reflective analysis of my own teaching was a critical component in my growth as a teacher, and in the eventual success of my students.”
FACET has provided Becker with faith in his students’ capacity to learn extraordinary things.
“I firmly believe that every student has the ability to learn,” Becker said. “As a teacher, it is my responsibility to find the method which best meets the needs of the individual.”
The veteran educator builds personal connections with his students, and he has learned that his own enthusiasm for math has an effect on them. “I enjoy mathematics, so it is easy to be enthusiastic about the topic,” he says. “But I also recognize that many students do not like the subject”—one reason that he uses everyday examples to illustrate to his students how much their lives revolve around math and its underlying principles.
Becker has impressed his fellow IU Northwest faculty members with his contributions to higher education on the campus and throughout the IU system, particularly in service to his fellow lecturers. He has played a major role in the growth of FALCON (FACET Adjunct Lecturers Conference), an event that recognizes the key role that lecturers play in higher education.
“Jon is one of Indiana University Northwest’s finest teachers,” says Charles Gallmeier, a sociology professor at Northwest. Becker has won multiple teaching awards from the IU Board of Trustees during his career, being honored in 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2012. Last year, he won the highly regarded FACET Eileen Bender Fellowship.
For Becker, though, the real success for a teacher is when the relationship focuses on the student and his or her dreams, as evidenced in the opening statement of a teaching philosophy that he developed approximately 15 years ago. “The interaction between instructor and student is critical to the development of the person and the skill level to which they aspire,” Becker wrote.
He has learned other lessons since then, including the need to develop his own knowledge. “In the final analysis, a teacher is a lifetime learner,” Becker says. “I will continue to pursue growth and learning opportunities so that I will be a better teacher tomorrow than I am today.”