Math Teacher + High Excellence Quotient = Award
Scott Annin Wins Barnes Excellence in Teaching Award
May 13, 2008
By Russ Hudson
Scott Annin, associate professor of mathematics, froze when Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon and several others walked unannounced into his classroom and strode to the front.
"Once a year," Gordon announced without preamble, "a faculty member is selected for the Carol Barnes Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. This year, it is your faculty member, right here," he said, resting his hand on Annin's shoulder.
The Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching Award
The purpose of the Barnes award is to acknowledge faculty who demonstrate academic rigor in teaching consistent with the university mission and goals and the mission of the California State University.
The award, created in 2006, is named for Carol Barnes, emeritus professor of elementary and bilingual education and recipient of the Outstanding Professor Award in 1994. Having served in many leadership roles on and off campus, Barnes also has been recognized as a distinguished educator on the state level and been honored with many accolades.
Annin is the third recipient of the Barnes Award. Prior recipients were Melinda Blackman, associate professor of psychology, for 2006-07, and Raphael J. Sonenshein, professor of political science, in 2005-06.
Award winners are recognized during commencement and their names are engraved on a permanent plaque.
"Appropriately," the president said, as he handed Annin his trophy and the balloons, "it is a crystal apple, an apple for the teacher."
Turning to the class, Gordon asked, "Would you all say he is an excellent teacher?"
His question was greeted by loud applause and smiles. Joining Gordon in speaking about Annin, Zvi Drezner, who has the Outstanding Professor Award as well as the CSU Wang Family Excellence Award, noted that "Teaching and inspiring students is a rewarding task and can be a difficult task, and it can be magnified when teaching math. You have done it so well."
Even Drezner's brief comment was more than Annin was able to get out, which, essentially, was, "Thank you! What a surprise! What an honor!" with a second "Thank you!" to the applauding students.
Love of Teaching
Later, Annin said of the surprise announcement: "When I saw all of the people and the balloons coming through the door, I was thinking, ‘this is going to be one exam my students will never forget!'
"I thought it was a really nice touch for Dr. Gordon to surprise me in front of my students, all of whom are near and dear to me," Annin added. "I was glad to share the moment with them. I could never have won this award if I didn't love my career so much, and I wouldn't love my career as I do if it weren't for the wonderful individuals that have populated my classrooms ever since I began at Cal State Fullerton six years ago.
"I never saw myself as trying to win this award," Annin continued. "I simply come to Cal State Fullerton every day to do what I love to do with all my heart. For me, I have never really viewed my profession as work, but rather, it is a craft that I am constantly perfecting, and a dream that gives me tremendous joy, purpose and significance each and every day. I have simply done the best I can to engage my students in mathematics, to excite their curiosity and to maintain high standards for excellence.
"I strive to demonstrate to my students the value of hard work, and I also want them to see how much I care about them," the Barnes winner said. "I am known as a teacher who assigns a lot of work and challenges students to meet high expectations … and I also try to impart to students the importance of being connected. Most endeavors in life are not accomplished in isolation, but with the support and mutual give-and-take that others can provide. I always encourage my students to be both mentors and learners simultaneously with one another. This implies, naturally, that relationships are extremely important. This is true even with a subject like mathematics."
President Milton A. Gordon awards associate professor of mathematics Scott A. Annin the Carol Barnes Faculty Excellence Award.
Paul DeLand, chair and professor of mathematics, and Steven Murray, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, praised Annin highly, but the praise from former students may have rung the loudest.
"During classes, Dr. Annin used a variety of teaching techniques. He provided clear and comprehensible lectures during direct instruction. In addition, he offered opportunities for student projects in high-interest areas," noted alumnus Benjamin Hager (B.A. mathematics '06, M.A. mathematics-teaching '08).
He "was available to assist students far beyond his regular office hours. He offered off-campus meetings at locations such as Del Taco and Denny's, where he made himself available in a casual atmosphere to support students with additional instructions, test preparation, discussion of topics from other classes, and academic and vocational advisement. He continued the sessions for as long as students needed assistance, staying past midnight on numerous occasions," Hager added.
Ryan Kile, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 2005, said, "He was by far the best professor that I had at CSUF. His passion for teaching has been very evident to me and I fully support his recommendation for this prestigious award.
"The upper-division courses I took with Dr. Annin were very challenging and can be intimidating for many students, including myself," Kile stated. "However, under the leadership of Dr. Annin, these daunting courses suddenly became manageable. … He created a classroom atmosphere that was inviting to all students and he would pause and re-teach concepts during lecture if he noticed the class was becoming confused. He showed … great enthusiasm for each new topic … (and would) connect our subject matter to real life situations."
A former student, Camden Jansen, who transferred to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not only sent a letter supporting Annin for the honor, but also named him as her most influential teacher when she was admitted to MIT, which MIT acknowledged in a letter to the educator.
Annin, who holds a doctorate in mathematics from UC Berkley, came to CSUF in 2002. He has been honored with departmental and college honors, including the Outstanding Teacher and Scholar, Service and Scholarly and Creative Activity awards and Dean's Award for Outstanding Teaching.
He co-authored the third edition of "Differential Equations and Linear Algebra" with Stephen Goode, professor of mathematics, which was published a year ago by Prentice Hall. Annin also works with the university's McNair Scholars Program, which encourages students to pursue graduate studies.