Teachers can make a tremendous difference in the lives of their students. Teaching is their job, but they often go far beyond that to support, inspire and help students establish a foundation for the future.
Teacher Appreciation Week is the perfect opportunity for us at Front Range Community College to applaud our phenomenal faculty and instructors. These individuals are committed to preparing students for whatever their next steps are in life: a career change, earning a four-year degree or learning new skills to help them be better at their jobs.
Above all, those who teach at FRCC do so because they love their subject and their craft, and want to help students better their lives, wherever they are along the journey of life.
Meet Stephanie Beck, Math Instructor
Stephanie Beck, chair of the Math Department at FRCC’s Boulder County Campus, is a prime example of a professor who cares deeply about her students. She not only gives her all in the classroom, but spends a lot of time working with students outside of class time as well.
On the faculty at FRCC since 2016, Stephanie is advisor for the Engineering Club on campus. She’s led teams of students in the Colorado Robotics Challenge, which is put on by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium that FRCC is a partner in.
Dean of Instruction Mary Lee Geary calls Stephanie the type of teacher who “goes above and beyond” in every situation. “Stephanie brings great energy to the classroom and to all her college involvement,” she says.
“Students enjoy her, and the truth is, she enjoys the students too.”
“She sees the whole person, and that respect goes a long way.”
A Champion for Active Learning
Perhaps part of what makes Stephanie’s math classes great—she currently teaches Introduction to statistics and finite math—is the embedded active learning component. In 2019, she participated in FRCC’s Active Learning Institute, which teaches professors how to get their students engaged in active, collaborative learning. Her classroom hasn’t been the same since.
The concept of active learning rejects the idea that the teacher’s role is to transmit knowledge to students. Instead, teachers become learning facilitators who create opportunities for students to do meaningful work both in and out of class. A teacher’s job is to give students ways to intentionally practice important skills and make meaningful connections with the course content.
In the institute, Stephanie learned active learning techniques and design strategies to implement in her classroom, and she quickly set about redesigning her statistics course. Today as Math Department chair, she’s encouraged other faculty to do the same.
Most math classes at the Boulder County Campus now incorporate active learning. In these classes, students engage in experiential activities, brainstorm concepts as a team or work together on problems or projects.
“I think active learning gives students the opportunity to see themselves as mathematicians and critical thinkers,” Stephanie says. “They’re in a supportive environment where they do the work and the teacher is the facilitator. That results in students really building their confidence and taking ownership of their learning.”
Improving the Student Experience
Jack Preigh is a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for Stephanie’s statistics courses. SI is an academic support program available in many FRCC math courses (and certain science courses).
SI is staffed by students who have successfully completed the course in a previous semester. As an SI Leader, Jack supports students with homework and class work in and outside of Stephanie’s class.
“Stephanie wants to ensure her students are successful,” he says. “She puts endless effort toward improving the student experience through the active learning teaching model—and even switched to an open-source textbook to save students money. She and all of the math faculty are very passionate about what they do.”
Helping Students Succeed
Laken Top is a math faculty colleague of Stephanie’s and agrees that her passion and dedication are obvious. “As math instructors, we know that many students struggle with math or find it intimidating,” she says.
“Stephanie empowers students to construct their own knowledge.”
“She has participated in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across the college to create a more inclusive, equitable environment for students,” Laken adds. “These efforts include organizing and leading a DEI reading group for the math department—and she’s also done great work in the area of active learning.
“Everything Stephanie does is focused on increasing student success within the walls of her classroom and beyond.”
Math for the Community
In January 2023, Stephanie spearheaded an AMC 8 math competition at FRCC for area middle school students. They got the chance to apply classroom skills to unique problem-solving challenges in a low-stress and friendly environment.
Participants completed the AMC 8 exam and got to learn about college classes and math careers. The event also helped students develop positive attitudes towards analytical thinking and mathematics, which can assist in future education and careers.
A Love of Teaching…and the Community College Setting
While earning a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics at Colorado School of Mines, Stephanie started teaching at Red Rocks Community College as part-time faculty. She came to FRCC in 2015 as an adjunct before joining the college full time in 2016.
There are many things she loves about teaching, but at the top of the list is the opportunity to teach a diverse range of students. “People come to FRCC from all different places and times in their lives,” Stephanie says. “I get to connect with them in the classroom and usher them along in what is a transformative time in their lives.”
“I love that about our students. They are business owners and parents and people coming back to college to get a certificate or degree to change their lives. They’re excited and motivated, so it’s really energizing for me to be able to interact with them.”
The Family Business
Stephanie didn’t plan to become a math teacher, but it isn’t a huge surprise that things ended up that way. Her mother is a college math professor at a university in Pennsylvania, where she is from.
“I was planning to go to law school after undergrad but double majored in math and political science because I really liked math,” she says.
A part-time tutoring position during college changed everything. She graduated from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania in 2011 and headed west to Colorado School of Mines for a master’s degree with an open mind, but an idea that teaching might suit her well.
A Natural Fit
From the time she was a graduate teaching assistant at Mines, teaching has felt natural to Stephanie. “I think I’m comfortable and confident in front of the classroom, which makes it a natural fit,” she says.
“On top of the amazing student interactions, it really is just something I love to do.”
Mary Lee says Stephanie raises the bar for other teachers and herself. “When you walk by her classroom, you can see her dedication,” she says.
“She is exceptional. Truly, Stephanie is a superstar teacher.”
Honoring Superstar Teachers
FRCC is proud of its many devoted, enthusiastic and caring teachers like Stephanie. This week and always, we commend them for making our college such a welcoming and supportive environment for students and the community.