Combining Passions for Math and Teaching

David Platt

David Platt has loved mathematics for as long as he can remember, but he didn’t discover his love of teaching until his first experience as a student teacher. “My very first class was full of students who were eager to learn, and I was hooked after that,” says David. “My two greatest loves are solving math problems and helping people, and I get to do both in this job. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Born and raised in Connecticut, David earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and a few years later, a certification to teach high school math. But when he faced a difficult job market, he decided to get a master’s in mathematics—at Colorado State University. Having grown up vacationing in Colorado, David was excited by the idea of starting his teaching career here, but fate led him to South Carolina after he graduated, where he taught at Lander College and simultaneously pursued another master’s degree (in computer science) at the University of South Carolina. When the opportunity arose to get his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, he jumped at it.

A Focus on Teaching—Not Research.

In 1990, David got a job at Mesa Community College in Arizona and couldn’t believe his good fortune. The environment suited his desire to focus on teaching rather than research. “I found my greatest reward in teaching a subject that I love and motivating students,” he says.

Meanwhile, David’s parents had retired to Estes Park, and when their health began to decline, David decided he needed to care for them. He moved to Fort Collins when he landed a position at FRCC in 2000. With a collegial department, “fantastic” colleagues, an excellent chair, and great students, the move, he says, was fortuitous. “I think I’m meant for this job,” says David, a devout Christian. “I think God has a plan for my life, and teaching at Front Range is definitely a part of it.”

Having Fun in the Classroom.

Students at FRCC call him enthusiastic and great at explaining math in a way that is easy to understand. They also consider him a bit of a goofball. “I admit that I like being in front of the classroom, hamming it up a little,” David says. “I like joking around with students and having fun.”

His approach is to make math interactive. “I try to give students that conceptual understanding of performing a math procedure and help them make that connection in their brain,” he says. “I don’t believe in lowering the level of rigor, because I want students to get through this class and the next one successfully. Mostly, I try to make math fun.”

Busy with AP, Harvard, PTK.

David keeps quite busy outside the classroom. He has been a certified consultant for the College Board since 1991, training high school math teachers to teach calculus and help students prepare for Advanced Placement exams. He is a certified rater for the National Center for Teaching Excellence at Harvard University as well.

At FRCC, David is the co-advisor for Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year colleges, and the advisor for the Larimer Campus Campus Crusade for Christ Club. For 2011-2012, he received the Outstanding Club/Organization Advisor Award. “Receiving that was a special moment,” he says. “It was something the students selected me for, and really, they’re the ones I do this for. They are the ones we’re here to help.”

Inspired and Energized.

It’s been 13 years since David came to FRCC, but he says he never tires of teaching—quite the opposite, in fact. “When I’m in the classroom and I can tell the light bulb has come on for someone and the noise level goes up because people are starting to get what I’m showing them—that is just so cool,” he says. “I come out of class ready to teach another class. It is energizing, and it feels good.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michaele Charles is the founder of Voice Communications and writes frequently for higher education institutions, small businesses, corporate clients, and others. She also is a fledgling children’s writer. In her pre-writing life, she worked in accounting and finance.