Who Qualifies?

To be eligible, nominees must

  • be current MAA members,
  • teach mathematical science courses at least half-time during the academic year, and
  • have at least seven years experience teaching at the college or university level.
Visit the Teaching Awards page for a bio of the current recipient and more information about the teaching awards.

Mathematics Association of America
Southern California-Nevada Section

Teaching Award Past Recipients

Visit the Teaching Awards page for more information about the teaching awards.

Gail Tang wins the Section's 2022 Teaching Award

Gail Tang

Dr. Gail Tang of University of La Verne is the winner of the 2022 Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics and a nominee for the national MAA's 2022 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

The MAA Southern California-Nevada Section recognizes her as a skilled and effective educator who uses effective and inclusive pedagogies, as someone who empowers students by highlighting opportunities for creativity in mathematics and has made important contributions to the research on creativity, as an accomplished mentor, as someone committed to sharing access to mathematics and her love for it beyond the walls of classrooms, and as someone doing the work of re-envisioning mathematics as a more inclusive human endeavor. We are honored to present her with the Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

More information can be found about Dr. Gail Tang on her University of La Verne page. You can also learn more about her work with the Creativity Research Group.

Robin Todd Wilson the Section's 2021 Teaching Award

Dr. Wilson at the board

Professor Robin Todd Wilson California State University Pomona is the winner of the 2021 Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics and a nominee for the national MAA's 2022 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

The MAA Southern California-Nevada Section recognizes the great positive impact Dr. Wilson has had mathematics students and is honored to present him with the Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Lisette de Pillis Receives the Section's 2019 Teaching Award

Dr. de Pillis in the classroom

Professor Lisette de Pillis of Harvey Mudd College is the winner of the 2019 Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics and a nominee for the national MAA's 2020 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Currently Department Chair at Harvey Mudd College, Professor Lisette de Pillis is noted as being clearly passionate about building bridges between the mathematical, biological, and medical communities. Her work in immunology modeling and a search for new ways to treat diseases that interact with the immune system, in particular cancer, HIV, and Type I diabetes has garnered her both national and international visibility. Dr. de Pillis has been recognized by the Argonne National Laboratory with the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Distinguished (MGM) Scholar award, being only the second mathematician receive the award. She’s also been elected as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Professor de Pillis, has a rare gift of being able to communicate her deep discoveries with broader audiences, and her important interdisciplinary research regularly engages students. In her 25 years of teaching at Harvey Mudd College, she has supervised more than 70 undergraduate and graduate research students, and many post-doctoral researchers too. At HMC, she pioneered one of the leading undergraduate programs in mathematical biology. Since her arrival at HMC, the number and proportion of women studying (and teaching) mathematical sciences has grown significantly. In a time when there are still significant concerns about bringing women and other under-represented groups into scientific and mathematical fields, Dr. de Pillis serves as a role model and an inspiration.

The MAA Southern California-Nevada Section recognizes the great positive impact Dr. de Pillis has had mathematics students and is honored to present her with the Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Jennifer Switkes Receives the Section's 2018 Teaching Award

Jennifer Switkes

Professor Jennifer Switkes of California Polytechnic University Pomona is the winner of this year's Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics and a nominee for the national MAA's 2019 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Dr. Switkes is recognized for bringing her educational core values of excellence, honor, integrity, love, and purpose to all students, and specifically to traditionally underserved students.

Dr. Switkes makes extensive use of projects in all her courses, and always includes some content which forces the students to address issues not specifically asked for. Students extend and apply the concepts and algorithms that have been learned in class to large-scale and hands-on problems. The inclusion of a research component allows the students to challenge themselves and gives them an opportunity to see how mathematical research can be conducted. As a former student describes her experience with Dr. Switkes' methods, "During this time we expanded a recently developed iterative numerical integration technique to higher dimensions, programmed the method in MATLAB, and used difference equations to derive closed-form formulas for specific examples. Working on this project with Dr. Switkes introduced me to the extensive community of mathematics by presenting our work at five undergraduate research conferences and publishing a paper in The Mathematical Scientist . This was my first research project, and it sent me on a trajectory to become a research intern at MIT and subsequently to be accepted to MIT's Ph.D. program."

Professor Switkes' teaching efforts in mathematics extend well beyond Cal Poly Pomona classrooms--she has a missionary dedication in her desire to volunteer to teach underserved student populations. A few years ago she began teaching calculus at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, CA through the Prison Education Project. She developed strategies to focus the students' attention on the big ideas on calculus, but she didn't even know if she would have the same students week after week.

The MAA Southern California-Nevada Section recognizes the great positive impact Dr. Jennifer Switkes has had on mathematics education and is honored to present her with the Secton Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Darryl Yong wins the 2017 MAA Section Teaching Award!

Darryl Yong

Our 2017 Section Teaching Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics goes to Darryl Yong of Harvey Mudd College. Dr. Yong has a lengthy record of innovative and caring teaching at Harvey Mudd College. He has shown a consistent commitment to inclusive pedagogy in his own classes and in his scholarship on secondary math education. He co-founded the nonprofit Math for America Los Angeles which supports local teachers though professional development. Most recently, he became the inaugural director of the new Center for Teaching and Learning at the Claremont Colleges. You can read more at his blog profteacher.com.

Shirley Gray wins the 2016 MAA Section Teaching Award!

Shirley Gray

Our 2016 Section Teaching Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics goes to Dr. Shirley B. Gray of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).

Dr. Gray has a long record of teaching excellence. Students and colleagues alike remark on her "infectious enthusiasm." She has established connections across disciplines, with academic colleagues in computer science and engineering, as well as industry representatives. One of her colleagues describes her teaching in this way: "...she approaches teaching with great enthusiasm, passion, and commitment. She has a relaxed, informal teaching style, and skillfully makes use of different types of media and teaching techniques..." A key example of her innovative class activities is her annual math field trip to The Huntington Library in Pasadena, by arrangement with the Huntington's Curator of Manuscripts, to view original first editions. Dr. Gray is credited for her work in helping to bring the Archimedes Palimpsest to The Huntington. Dr. Gray is also known as the "driving force" behind the widely recognized National Curve Bank. This online resource has received multiple support grants (from the NSF and the Beckman Foundation) and has been recognized by Caltech, the College Board, and the MAA's Mathematical Sciences Digital Library (MathDL). Dr. Gray has many more teaching accomplishments and the strong, warm support of past students and colleagues at the local, regional, and national level.

Daphne Liu Receives the Section's 2015 Teaching Award

Daphne Liu

Professor Daphne Liu of CSU Los Angeles is the winner of this year’s Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Professor Daphne Liu has an extraordinary record of teaching, individual mentoring, and scholarship. She has been a faculty member at Cal State LA for more than 24 years, where she has taught a wide range of subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students regard her as an extremely caring and supportive teacher who maintains high standards and challenges her students to new heights. Professor Liu’s unyielding commitment to students is evidenced by the energy and care she puts into helping her students succeed. Many of her students become teachers themselves and emulate her highly successful teaching style, to the benefit of succeeding generations of students.
Professor Liu is the Principal Graduate Advisor in her department where she guides students to be successful at Cal State LA and as they begin their professional careers. She is also a leader in her department in mentoring students on research projects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These projects often result in publications and award-winning student presentations. Professor Liu has supervised more than 50 students, including many minority and first-generation students. More than 30 of her former students either currently teach at universities after completing their Ph.D. or are enrolled in doctoral programs.

Professor Liu’s scholarly work complements her teaching interests. Her research areas include graph theory, its relations to number theory and topology, and its applications to broadcast communications.  She was the PI for two NSF multi-year research grants and has published more than 45 articles in highly regarded journals, some of which were co-authored by her students.  Professor Liu frequently is an invited speaker and has given more than eighty presentations in the United States, Canada, Asia, and Europe. Her research on the channel assignment problem has inspired several NSF— or MAA—funded REU programs at other CSU campuses.  Currently, she is a co-PI of a $5 million multi-campus cross-disciplinary NASA grant (with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UC Irvine) to recruit and train students, especially from underrepresented minorities, for careers in STEM fields and for future leadership roles.

Professor Liu was awarded the prestigious Cal State LA Outstanding Professor Award in 2003 and a competitive Innovative Teaching Award. She received her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, and her BS from the National Central University, Taiwan. Professor Liu has been a visiting scholar at several institutions in Taiwan and China.

Shahriar Shahriari Receives the Section's 2014 Teaching Award

Shahriar Shahriari

Professor Shahriar Shahriari of Pomona College is the winner of this year’s Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics and a nominee for the national MAA’s 2014 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Professor Shahriari has been an educator for 27 years, the past twenty-five at Pomona College. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986. Before arriving at Pomona College, he had faculty positions at Oberlin College and Cal State Northridge.

Professor Shahriari has already been recognized with Pomona College’s Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching four times. This award is the highest honor that Pomona, one of the outstanding liberal arts colleges in the nation, confers on its faculty. His engaging classes are not only some of the most challenging courses in the Pomona College math department, but also some of the highest enrolled. His innovative teaching approaches include using the Prime Number Theorem to motivate several topics in Calculus II. Some of this work appears in his book Approximately Calculus (AMS), which won the Library Association’s Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title in 2007.

But Prof. Shahriari’s outstanding contributions go beyond undergraduate students at Pomona College. The Pomona Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) program that he founded is now in its ninth year of successfully working with 10th-12th graders from groups historically underrepresented in higher education. Many program alumni never would have considered applying to college and now are walking the halls of Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley and many other elite institutions of higher education. Pomona College considered the program so successful that it built a center for community partnerships around it.

Professor Shahriari is the inaugural faculty mentor in Pomona College’s partnership with the Posse Foundation, which aims to bring exceptional high school students who may have been overlooked by the usual admissions process to elite colleges and universities throughout the nation. The list of accomplishments of Pomona College Posse alumni is quite impressive, and Professor Shahriari played a significant role in their success.

Professor Shahriari has many more teaching accomplishments, which were detailed in strong, wonderful letters of support contained in his nomination. These accomplishments are all the more impressive when one considers that his excellence in the classroom has been partnered with an excellent research record. Indeed, Prof. Shahriari has published eight peer-reviewed articles in mainstream journals with 24 student co-authors, with two more forthcoming. This is in addition to his three edited volumes and 40 articles, conference proceedings, and other publications.

Perhaps it is apt to close with a quote from one of the hundreds of students whose lives he has touched: “Over the years, this close mentor of mine has become one of the most respectable and trustworthy people at Pomona College. I can’t put in words all of the strengths of his character and pedagogy, but to mention a key point, I have always felt like Shahriari has shown the utmost interest in my personal well-being and success after college.”

Perla Myer Receives the Section's 2013 Teaching Award

Perla Myers

Our 2013 Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics goes to Dr. Perla Myers from the University of San Diego (USD). Dr. Myers is an outstanding teacher, as evidenced by her nomination letter and supporting letters. One colleague wrote, “If a student needs more help or more time, Perla will find a way to give that to the student. She is extraordinarily creative; if one approach doesn't work she will find another. As a Hispanic woman Perla is a terrific role model for many students.” At USD, Perla co-organized a student chapter of SACNAS (the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science); directed USD’s Mathematics Center; and spearheaded an innovative mentoring project. Perla’s influence has extended well beyond her home institution. She co-founded our region’s Section NExT chapter. She was a co-PI on a California Math and Science Partnership Grant for an “Inquiry Learning Partnership” between USD, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (a local science museum), and the Lemon Grove and Chula Vista School Districts. She has organized Family Math Nights, where students work with elementary school children and their parents on math activities. Remarkably, the preceding list gives only a few highlights amongst Perla Myers’ many accomplishments in service to her students and to the education and inspiration of young mathematical minds throughout the surrounding community.

Francis Su Receives the Section's 2012 Teaching Award

Francis Su

Francis Su's address at the Spring 2013 Section Meeting

Francis Su is the Benediktsson-Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. His research is in geometric combinatorics and applications to the social sciences, and he has co-authored over 25 papers, half of them with undergraduates. From the MAA, he has received recognition for his writing and teaching, including the Hasse Prize in 2001, the Alder Award in 2004, and the Haimo Award in 2013. He recently concluded a term as MAA vice-president. His passion for teaching and popularizing mathematics is evident from his website "Math Fun Facts", which receives over a million hits each year, as well as his iPhone app by the same name. His hobbies include songwriting, gardening, photography, and theology; just like mathematics, these are modes of creative expression that divinely blend structure and freedom, truth and beauty, reflection and action.

Cindy Wyels Receives the Section's 2011 Teaching Award

Silvia Heubach, 2010-11 Section Vice-Chair
California State University - Los Angeles

Cindy Wyels

Cindy Wyels' address at the Fall 2011 Section Meeting

The recipient of the Southern California-Nevada Section’s 2011 Distinguished Teaching Award, Professor Cindy Wyels from California State University, Channel Islands, is well-known to many of the students in the section as the organizer of the Student Poster Session at each Spring Meeting since 2004. This activity is part of a bigger picture: her dedication to introducing undergraduates – especially native Spanish speakers and first generation college students – to research in mathematics. Since 2004, Dr. Wyels has directed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at California Lutheran University and later at CSU Channel Islands. A total of 63 undergraduates participated in these programs through 2010, with 38 from underrepresented groups. She also played a key role in a CSU Channel Islands summer program to engage local community college students in research.

Professor Wyels is a remarkable teacher who consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations from her students. She thinks creatively and carefully about her courses and the activities that will best lead to student learning. She employs a wide variety of instructional techniques in order to match a wide variety of student learning styles, including lecture, small group activities, self-paced computer labs, problem sets, and projects. As one student put it, "I can honestly say you are the best professor I have ever had!" Another one wrote: “Her passion and energy for teaching inspires and motivates her students, and her manner is both warm and approachable.”

Professor Wyels’ interest in excellence in teaching also extends to mentoring her colleagues. Perhaps most noteworthy is her role as cofounder and co-director of the Critical Friends Group (CFG) at CSU Channel Islands. Faculty from all disciplines meet biweekly for two hours to work on specific teaching dilemmas, to discuss pedagogical literature, and to provide each other with insight and support. Half of the tenure-track mathematics faculty at CSU Channel Islands participate in this group, which has resulted in a cultural shift of the pedagogical attitudes in the math department.

The MAA announced in early August that Dr. Wyels also will receive the MAA’s national award for outstanding teaching, the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics, during the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston, Mass., Jan. 4-7.

Cindy Wyels

Student Poster Session Organizer Cindy Wyels announces the award winners at the Spring 2009 MAA Section Meeting at Cal Lutheran.

Cindy Wyels received her Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara in 1994. Prior to joining CSUCI, Dr. Wyels served as chair of the mathematics department at California Lutheran University; her faculty experience also includes Weber State University and the United States Military Academy. She is director of the masters program in mathematics and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program at CSU Channel Islands. Dr. Wyels’ research interests are combinatorial mathematics and linear algebra. Most recently she has focused on questions in graph pebbling, a topic that she has used very successfully in REUs.

Dr. Wyels will give the invited address, “Unexpected Outcomes in Undergraduate Research,” at our Fall Section Meeting, to be held Saturday, October 15, at Cal State Los Angeles.

Our section’s Distinguished Teaching Award honors college or university teachers who have been widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has been shown to have had influence beyond their own institutions. Recipients of the section award then become nominees for the national Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. During the past 12 years, we have had seven of our section winners (Art Benjamin, Curtis Bennett, Jaqueline Dewar, Erica Flapan, Judith Grabiner, Jennifer Quinn, and now Cindy Wyels) subsequently receive the Haimo Teaching Award.

This year’s selection committee was chaired by Magnhild Lien (CSU Northridge), with members Scott Annin (CSU Fullerton), Art Benjamin (Harvey Mudd College), Curtis Bennett (Loyola Marymount), and Florence Newberger (CSU Long Beach).

It’s never too early to consider nominating a colleague for the 2012 award or to volunteer to serve on the 2012 committee. Serving on the committee is fun and easy and is a great way to find out how to put together an effective nomination package. Please contact the Section Secretary or the Section Vice Chair if you are interested in serving.

Erica Flapan Wins Section Teaching Award

Erica Flapan

Erica Flapan's address at the Fall 2010 Section Meeting

The Southern California-Nevada Section of the MAA is pleased to announce that Erica Flapan, Lingurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics at Pomona College, has received the section’s 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award.

Dr. Flapan’s gift for teaching has been recognized repeatedly, and her students praise her for her work in the classroom that emphasizes student participation. Her students report that she pours much thought and creativity into the design of her courses and that she is a superb and dynamic lecturer who also is great at leading discussions. She has received, among other awards, an Exxon Award for Mathematics Teaching, the Irvine Foundation Distinguished Faculty Fellowship for mentoring students of color at Pomona College, and the “Magna Cum Laude Teacher” title at Rice University. She has been awarded grants in mathematics education and in mathematics research as well. She is a tireless advocate and one of the strongest voices students have in support of diversity of all kinds.

Erica Flapan received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1983. She was a post-doc for two years at Rice University and for one year at UCSB. She joined the faculty at Pomona College in 1986. In addition to teaching at Pomona, Flapan has taught at the Summer Mathematics Program for Women at Carleton College, the Mills Summer Math Institute, the Canada-U.S. Mathcamp, and the Park City Mathematics Institute Undergraduate Program.

Flapan has done research in knot theory and the study of 3-manifolds. She is one of the pioneers of the study of the topology of graphs embedded in 3-space, and has published extensively in this area and its applications to chemistry and molecular biology. She has published three books that can serve as an ideal introduction to applied knot theory. The first, When Topology Meets Chemistry, was published jointly by the MAA and Cambridge University Press. Flapan co-edited the second book, Applications of Knot Theory, with Dorothy Buck, and co-authored the third, Number Theory: A Lively Introduction with Proofs, Applications, and Stories, with James Pommersheim and Tim Marks.

Flapan will receive the prestigious Franklin and Deborah Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College and University Teaching, awarded to three MAA members each year, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans in January 2010.

Curtis Bennett

2009 Recipient: Curtis Bennett

Curtis Bennet's address at the Fall 2009 Section Meeting

The Southern California-Nevada Section of the MAA is pleased to announce that Professor Curtis Bennett of Loyola Marymount University has received its 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Bennett's students describe him as energetic and enthusiastic, passionate, selfless, sincere, and patient. They often credit him not just for increased mathematical skills, but also for increased self-confidence.

Dr. Bennett's reputation as an excellent teacher extends well beyond the boundaries of LMU. He has gained national and international prominence as a two-time Carnegie Scholar, has led two PMET Workshops (Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers), and has presented the mini-course, A Beginners Guide to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Dr. Bennett received his PhD in Mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1990 in the area of groups and geometries. Since then he has held positions at Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, and Bowling Green State University, and he is currently Professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He has published over 30 articles in mathematics and in the scholarship of teaching and learning mathematics. Dr. Bennett was the co-editor of the book Starting Our Careers with Annalisa Crannell and was a founding editor of the Young Mathematicians Network.

Bennett will receive the prestigious Franklin and Deborah Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching, awarded to three MAA members each year, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco in January of 2010.

Curtis BennettCurtis Bennett

2008 Recipient: Bruce Yoshiwara

By Michael Frantz, Section Chair and 2008 Teaching Award Committee Chair, University of La Verne

Bruce Yoshiwara's address at the Fall 2008 Section Meeting

Dr. Bruce Yoshiwara, Professor of Mathematics at Pierce College, has been selected as the winner of the MAA's Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching for 2008 in the Southern California-Nevada Section. Professor Yoshiwara received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Mathematics from UCLA. He has been teaching mathematics at Pierce for the past 18 years, including a year in England on a Fulbright Scholarship. The Selection Committee was impressed by his successful use of technology as both a content delivery tool and a pedagogical tool, which when combined with the "beautifully clear lecture notes and examples he provides" surely contributed to his being the frequent recipient of the "Golden Apple Award" given out each year by students to their favorite professors. Professor Yoshiwara motivates and inspires his students to pursue their education even farther than they may have originally planned, caring enough to expose them to such diverse areas as life sciences, history, and foreign language as woven into the fabric of mathematics, and skillfully using his knowledge and perspective on the history of mathematics to capture the minds of his students. His students value his classes not just for their educational benefit, but for the overall experience which includes Yoshiwara's playful sense of humor, selection of (sometimes hilarious) classroom objects for visual aids to enhance the learning environment, and a striking energy level which communicates to his students that there is nothing else in the world he would rather be doing than teaching community college mathematics students. Examples abound of his inspiration of students to continue on in advanced work in mathematics.

Outside the classroom, Yoshiwara is a leader in curriculum development, and a knowledgeable and respected mathematician in the mathematics education community. He has co-authored a number of highly regarded algebra and pre-algebra textbooks with his wife (and principal author) Kathy Yoshiwara, is an associate editor for the Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications, and is actively involved in a number of different programs of the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges (AMATYC). He works with UCLA's Mathematics Content Program for Teachers, consults for Project NExT and Project ACCCESS (Advancing Community College Careers: Education, Scholarship, Service), is the L.A. Pierce Mathematics Department liaison for both the MAA and CMC3 (California Mathematics Council Community Colleges), and is on the board for the CMC3-Southern branch. Please join the Selection Committee in congratulating Professor Yoshiwara at the upcoming Fall Meeting Oct. 11 at Scripps College, when he gives the invited luncheon address, "The Weapon of Choice," on his experiences with technology in the classroom.

The five members of the Selection Committee were Michael Frantz (Chair) of the University of La Verne, Mario Martelli of Claremont McKenna College, Jackie Dewar of Loyola Marymount University, Robert Brown of UCLA, and Satish Bhatnagar of UNLV.

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