College of DuPage Associate Professor of Mathematics Rita Patel is recipient of the Illinois Section of The Mathematical Association of America’s 2019 Early Career Teaching Award for Extraordinarily Successful Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member.
Patel is one of only two educators statewide to receive the award, which honors beginning college or university faculty whose teaching has been particularly successful and whose effectiveness in teaching undergraduate mathematics is shown to have influence beyond their classrooms.
While honored with the accolade, Patel said it was completely unexpected.
“I was surprised to have been nominated and shocked when it was announced that I won,” she said.
Patel earned her undergraduate degree in business and spent 14 years working in the financial industry while returning to school to pursue an MBA. Once there, she discovered a deep enjoyment of her math classes and a love of teaching, inspiring her to complete M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics with a specialization in math education. In addition to teaching at College of DuPage, Patel works with community college and high school personnel to build a curriculum for high school students intending to pursue non-STEM majors in college and participates in professional service presentations to practicing middle and high school mathematics teachers.
Patel said she is enjoys teaching and is pleased with her time at College of DuPage.
“It has been a wonderful experience teaching for COD,” she said. “I am fortunate to have the support of the math department, STEM division and the school itself. I also love teaching. When you’re in a class with students that are genuinely interested in the subject, it’s unbelievable. The questions they ask, the interest they show. It makes my job even better.”
Patel said the single most important lesson she tries to impart to students is persistence.
“It’s okay if a student finds math difficult. It can be. To understand math, you must study, get things wrong, try it again, then repeat. The key is to persist,” she said.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 25,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.