Math Educators Recognized by Statewide Organization

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AIKEN, SC (01/11/2019) The South Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics awarded two University of South Carolina Aiken professors the Outstanding Contribution to Mathematics Education Award for 2018.

Dr. Gwendolyn B. Johnson and Gloria Allen earned the award based on their significant contributions to mathematics education in South Carolina, according to the SCCTM award criteria.

"The Outstanding Contributions to Mathematics Education Award this year will be given to two South Carolina educators, each equally deserving but who have functioned over most of their careers as a team," said Dr. Ed Dickey from USC Columbia who earned the award last year and presented it this year on behalf of SCCTM.

"While both have officially retired from USC Aiken, each remains an active leader at the USC Aiken Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and throughout our state, continuing to inspire and help educators grow."

In the past few years, more than 7,000 teachers and curriculum specialists representing more than 60 South Carolina school districts have participated in Professional Learning Mathematics and STEM sessions offered through the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center.

"I have had the privilege of spending my entire 26-year-career at USC Aiken working with Gwen and Gloria," said Dr. Gary J. Senn, director of the Ruther Patrick Science Education Center.

"They have always been significantly invested in improving mathematics education with the goal of improving student achievement. I have been incredibly impressed with their content knowledge and their ability to help educators improve their pedagogy."

For more than 30 years, the duo has dedicated time and energy to improving mathematics in South Carolina, according Dr. Bridget Coleman, a USC Aiken colleague. She says that individually, they have served in unique leadership roles in addition to teaching in classrooms. She believes they are super heroes in the quest to assist teachers and impact pre-kindergarten through college-student learning. Coleman credits them with designing cutting-edge professional development programs and curricula.

Both educators have impacted scores of USC Aiken education majors, including Debi Rood, who is a math and science middle school teacher for Aiken County Public Schools.

"Gwen convinced me science was fun to teach," Rood said. "Gloria was my math queen. She showed me how I could make math more interesting for my middle school classes, and that's tough. "They both had a big influence on my teaching."

For four decades, Johnson has dedicated time and energy to improving mathematics and science teaching and learning in South Carolina. She has served as a mathematics and science classroom teacher, director of STEM and college readiness programs for underserved populations, director of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center, director of Allendale Elementary School Professional Development School, and as member of the faculty in the USC Aiken School of Education. Johnson was also named the 2014 recipient of the Pickens-Salley Southern Woman of Distinction Award.

For more than 40 years, Allen has put her passion for mathematics education into action for S.C. educators and their students. She began her career as a mathematics teacher and later served as the mathematics department chair and sponsor of the Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society and Math Team at South Aiken High School. Colleagues and former students alike say she was a highly successful teacher and one of the first to bring graphing calculator technology to transform classroom experiences.

After serving as the CSRA's mathematics specialist for the S.C. Statewide Systemic Initiative, Allen expanded her teaching career serving as a faculty member in the USC Aiken School of Education while teaching courses in the mathematics department and serving as the director of the CSRA Mathematics and Science Regional STEM Center, located in the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Allen has volunteered time serving on local and state boards, including the Aiken County Public Education Partners Executive Board and the South Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics Executive Board.

During their K-12 tenure with the Aiken County Public School District, both Johnson and Allen were recognized as Teachers of the Year and served as curriculum specialists for the District.

Together, both recipients are active in professional organizations such as the South Carolina Leaders in Mathematics Education and the South Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Johnson and Allen have brought in millions in major grants for innovations in mathematics teaching and learning sponsored through the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the South Carolina Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

"I don't know any more deserving recipients for this award than Gloria and Gwen," said Dr. Jeff Priest, distinguished vice chancellor emeritus and distinguished professor emeritus.

"This dynamic duo is responsible for turning more students and teachers onto mathematics than anyone I know. They are truly the most dedicated, hard-working professionals I know, and I always knew that when they took on a task, that it would be done right.

"I was not only fortunate to have worked with them as colleagues for over 25 years, but more importantly, I have been blessed to have them as friends."

These educators have officially retired from USC Aiken, but they both remain adjunct faculty, teaching a full load of mathematics education courses and providing engaging learning experiences for in-service as well as pre-service teachers.

"Their impact continues," said Coleman, a former student of Johnson and Allen who has been mentored by both of them during the last 25 years.