David Pagni in Washington DC

Pagni's Apple

Math Professor Receives Award for Educational Leadership

October 24, 2006

By Mimi Ko Cruz

David L. Pagni’s contributions to mathematics education over the last few decades have earned him an Apple of Gold Award for Educational Leadership from the Orange County Hispanic Education Endowment Fund (HEEF).
HEEF officials lauded Pagni’s work for “closing the gap for disadvantaged students, improving student academic performance and training teachers.”
Pagni, professor of mathematics, created Cal State Fullerton’s Project MISS — a program geared toward enhancing the math skills of 10th- and 11th-grade girls from Orange County and surrounding communities. Since its inception in 1990, 98 percent of Project MISS participants have completed high school and enrolled in college. The program encourages participants to pursue careers with a foundation in mathematics by providing an intensive skills-building summer course.
Pagni also directs the university’s Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Program, which works with local high schools to help math teachers identify students’ strengths and weaknesses so that educators can readjust their teaching to meet student needs. In addition, he co-directs the Orange County Mathematics Project, a program dedicated to enhancing the algebra skills of those teaching fifth through ninth grades in local school districts.
He has helmed scores of other similar projects and garnered more than $20 million in grants for enhancing teacher training and student learning, as well as changing the way math is taught in elementary schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District. Many of Pagni’s projects support students who are underrepresented in higher education. He created a scholarship to support and mentor students from Santa Ana high schools who have enrolled at Cal State Fullerton as math majors. Scholarship recipients are mentored, and if they successfully complete their coursework, continue to receive the scholarship annually through completion of their degrees.
A couple of Pagni’s many honors include the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the National Science Foundation; the Outstanding Professor Award from Cal State Fullerton and the Cal State University system; and the CSU Wang Family Excellence Award.
Pagni “is very passionate about mathematics and wants everyone to share in that passion,” said Silas H. Abrego, associate vice president for student affairs. “For years, he has worked with parents, teachers and students to improve math instruction in order to get more students to go on to college.”
In his award nomination letter to HEEF, President Milton A Gordon wrote: “We are very proud of Professor Pagni’s accomplishments, his impact on improvement of learning and teaching mathematics in our elementary and secondary schools and the local, regional and national recognition that his efforts have brought to Cal State Fullerton and to the CSU system at large.”
Pagni truly deserves the HEEF award, said Marjorie DeMartino, HEEF’s award committee chair. “His influence and achievements in mathematics at the local, state and national level are a testament to his scholarly and creative activity throughout his distinguished career,” she said.
DeMartino said the 13th annual Apple of Gold Awards are given to those educators who help Latino students prepare for and succeed in college.
“I’m very excited to be honored for my work in promoting Hispanic and minority students at the K-16 level in mathematics education,” Pagni said. “Basically, Latinos are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines nationally, as has been documented by many different reports. In our modern technological society, these fields are important not just for careers, but for a country that needs an educated citizenry and a diverse population of students graduating from college. Many Latinos begin as laborers, but they want their children to go to and graduate from college. In order to help the parents and students achieve this dream, we must continue to strive to improve educational opportunities for Latinos.”
Pagni received his award Oct. 20 at a reception at the Hilton Anaheim Hotel. Other Apple of Gold Award recipients honored were Arnold O. Beckman High School teacher Janet Gonzalez, for Most Promising Young Teacher; Segerstrom High School teacher Lorraine Gerard and Century High School teacher Laura Rubio, for Excellence in K-12 Teaching.
HEEF was established in 1996 to support scholarships, programs and institutions that respond to the needs of Latino youth in order to inspire, enhance and improve educational opportunities. The organization has awarded $850,000 in scholarships to more than 700 college students in the last decade.


David Pagni
David Pagni