2016 Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics
Vesta Coufal, Gonzaga University

Vesta Coufal of Gonzaga University has been awarded the 201 6 Pacific Northwest MAA Teaching Award. During her four years at Ft. Lewis College and eight years at Gonzaga, Vesta has been a leader in innovative teaching. Her work not only directly helps her own students, but also benefits other faculty members at the local, regional, and national levels. Throughout her career, Vesta has generously shared her teaching endeavors with others through workshops and discussion groups.

After completing her PhD at the University of Notre Dame, where she was twice awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award for Excellence in Teaching, Vesta was granted a 2004 National Project NExT Fellowship. Vesta had an immediate impact on NExT by organizing a session entitled Effective Use of Cooperative or Collaborative Learning in Collegiate Mathematics Classes. Since then, Vesta has participated in an Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) Workshop sponsored by the Educational Advancement Foundation, multiple R.L. Moore Conferences, and a Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) workshop. Vesta has used what she has learned to redesign courses and to conduct her own workshops to help other teachers implement these techniques.

Vesta strives to bring teaching and discussions about teaching to the forefront. When she arrived at Gonzaga, Vesta immediately became involved in the Gonzaga Center for Teaching and Advising (CTA) where she has worked to provide teaching support for faculty. Within the department, Vesta started a Mathematics Teaching Circle, where faculty members share their teaching experiences over lunch in a non-threatening environment. She also started a Knot Theory research group as a collaborative learning community involving both students and faculty members. This group has produced numerous student conference presentations and a publication in the journal Involve. Regionally, Vesta has participated in and conducted Project NExT sessions dedicated to teaching. At the national level, Vesta gave a talk entitled Guided Inquiry in Calculus II at the 201 6 Joint Meetings.

Whether it is introducing proof portfolios in a proof writing class or using POGIL worksheets in calculus, Vesta continually works to create a productive learning environment through the implementation of innovative teaching techniques. Through multiple venues, Vesta openly shares her successes and failures with various teaching approaches. By doing so, Vesta’s work has benefitted numerous teachers at the local, regional, and national levels. We congratulate Vesta on her well-deserved teaching award.

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