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Marcia Corby found her calling as a Math professor and receives PC's 2024 Distinguished Teaching Award

Monday, May 6, 2024
miniý Math faculty member Marcia Corby with other members of faculty who served on the Distinguished Teaching Award selection committee
Math professor Marcia Corby, in red dress, stands with students in her Statistics class after receiving miniý's 2024 Distinguished Teaching Award
miniý Math professor, Marcia Corby stands with her former 6th grade Social Studies teacher, Renee Smith, who inspired Marcia to become a teacher.
miniý Math professor Marcia Corby encourages a growth mindset among her students to combat any preconceived notions they have about math.
Marcia with her family: husband Ryan, daughter Harper, and son Hendricks.

"This one means a lot to me," said Math faculty Marcia Corby, referring to miniý's 2024 Distinguished Teaching Award (DTA). The award is not her first teaching recognition – she won the Rodel Exemplary Teaching Award early in her career as an elementary school teacher – and it likely won't be her last. "It's an honor to be recognized by your peers," Marcia continued. "I love what I do. I'm living my best life. It's very humbling." 

Unfazed by DTA committee members' multiple observations of her class when she made the final round of candidates, Marcia explained, "My classroom is an open door." As a teaching mentor, Marcia wants teachers and anyone on campus to know they can always come and observe her class. "When I observe other people teach, I get many good ideas. If I'm going to give you a good idea, I should be able to demonstrate that idea," she said, but then qualified, "Not that my demo is going to be perfect and beautiful every time." Teachers can expect to observe how to use Kahoot, an online game-based learning platform, music to control a lesson's tone, energy, and timing, student collaborations, and a growth mindset. "I look at my job and collaborations like iron sharpening iron."

For many students who find math difficult, Marcia offers encouragement to keep them engaged. Adriel Angulo, who considers math his worst subject, became a student success specialist for one of Marcia's classes because he was adept at explaining the content and eager to help other students. One of the first things he noticed about Marcia was her approachability. "She makes it easy for students to ask questions or say, 'Hey, I'm confused.'" Adriel, now a student in Marcia's Statistics class, said her transparency helps, too. "She lets students know when the class will get difficult, but she's there to help us get through it." Not long ago, Adriel stayed after class to ask Marcia how to stop procrastinating. "She was honest, admitting she procrastinates too, but then came up with a game plan to help me. She offered me a space to sit after class while she had a meeting, knowing I wanted to finish the work but needed some accountability. She was genuine, with no hint of disappointment in me." 

The Teacher Vibe

At an early age, Marcia recalls people telling her she had the "teacher vibe," but she wasn't feeling it. "Ew, no, I'm gonna be a zoo biologist. I want to work with Shamu," she'd say. Yet, Marcia's sixth-grade social studies teacher, Renee Smith, influenced Marcia to grow into her calling. "I did not love social studies. It just wasn't my jam," Marcia recalled, "but Miss Smith had us create skits to present information, and I remember thinking, This is so fun. School would never be boring if every teacher could be this fun. Not that I thought school was boring, but she just blew it out of the park with her novel ideas." 

Marcia received her bachelor's degree in Education and loved teaching junior high math. "My plan was always that I would burn out. I'd go really hard and be okay with the fact that I wasn't going to do it forever," she remembered.  "I didn't have children then, so I was the athletic director and student-teacher mentor. It was very busy, very intense." Knowing she couldn't sustain that pace, she wondered, What's next?  

One of the staff suggested Marcia return to school for her Master's degree, but she didn't want a Master's in Education. Marcia considered a Master's degree in Counseling, "but I was nerding out writing test questions and wanted to work for Pearson," the educational publishing company. Eventually, she settled on an educational psychology degree in measurement statistics, which is math-heavy. Marcia took her first graduate-level stats class and was obsessed. "I went to the instructor and asked, 'Can I get a job doing this? You're my people!'"  

Math Professor

After earning her Master’s degree, a former Alhambra Middle School colleague suggested she contact miniý, and Marcia became an adjunct professor in the Fall of 2013. Ironically, Marcia was back in front of the classroom with her former junior high students, now her college students. "It's rare," she said, "to go from teaching junior high, where they don't love you, to college, where they want to learn. And they didn't call me names anymore. Now I was their hero, just for doing my job." With her door open during those classes, she quickly caught the attention of other math faculty who liked what they heard. When an emergency one-year-only position opened up, her department chair encouraged her to consider it. “That got my foot in the door," she said. Marcia became a residential faculty in 2017.  

Marcia has always been creative. "I crocheted as a kid," she said. She also made baby blocks and sold them on Etsy when her kids were little. "My husband, Ryan, is very entrepreneurial. We are both out-of-the-box creative thinkers." For Marcia, that creativity is most apparent in the lightboard math videos she produces for her classes. "Lightboard videos, for me, are very artistic.  I do it for students, but also me." Marcia and her dad designed and built the lightboard from scratch. The glass came from a neighbor's unused coffee table. Marcia spray-painted it, and her engineer dad did all the math to build it. The casters and hardware came from her father-in-law's hardware store. Housed in the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the lightboard is often visited by Marica over spring break.  "You're weird," teased CTL Instructional Technologist Michael Rosenberger surprised to find Marcia working on videos during her time off. Marcia smiled: "My kids are gone for the day. Spring Break is my time. I'm going to come hang out with the light board."

What else does Marcia do in her off time? "We love to travel," she said, referring to her husband Ryan, her daughter Harper, 11, and son Hendricks, 9. They are big fans of roller coasters and will make the trek to in Sandusky, Ohio, this summer, for the third summer in a row. Their best friends live in Ireland, so they also like to go there for a month and blend in with the locals. But Marcia is never too far away from class. She teaches an online College Algebra (MAT 151) course this summer and is ready to inspire a growth mindset in her students. 

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