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Math professor motivates students to persevere dur...

Math professor motivates students to persevere during pandemic

Dovie Kimmins, Mathematical Sciences faculty profile at KOM. (Photo: J. Intintoli)

By: Patsy Weiler

Pandemic or not, Mathematics professor Dovie Kimmins achieves a sum total of success by steadfastly motivating her students to persevere.

One of the ways she accomplishes this goal is by learning more about them.

“I try to learn their names, get to know them and show interest in them individually. I get energy from interacting with students and I think my Christian faith is a big motivator for me,” she said.

During the fall semester, Kimmins taught three sections of Calculus I (Math 1919) that met Monday through Thursday utilizing a hybrid mix of classroom and remote learning. Every other day, half of students attended in person while the other half could utilize the livestream or a video from the live stream that automatically posted to D2L after class.

D2L, or Desire2Learn, is MTSU’s online learning platform.

Dovie Kimmins, Mathematical Sciences faculty profile at KOM. (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Dovie Kimmins, Mathematical Sciences faculty profile at KOM. (Photo: J. Intintoli)

“Honestly, I also greatly missed seeing students face-to-face,” the math faculty said after explaining she had transitioned completely to an online teaching format when the pandemic hit last spring. “Many of my students are freshmen and their senior year [in high school] was cut short. They inspire me to want to go the extra mile and make class a good experience for them.”

The virus in some ways has hindered Kimmins’ ability to do that — one example is because of the need to social distance — the faculty member is more cautious about walking around the classroom and answering individual questions face-to-face — but chooses to adapt and remain positive.

“I am a big believer that nothing on this earth is perfect, and we must minimize the negative and maximize the positive and forge ahead,” said Kimmins, who has taught math for 38 years at MTSU. She smiles at the memory of the day when she forgot to turn on her microphone during a lecture and appreciates the kindness of her students.

Although she had never previously taught online, Kimmins is quick to add how the use of technology has brought pluses to her teaching, too.

The university alumna utilizes Zoom for her office hours, allowing multiple students to join at once and sees how it also benefits class members from interacting with each other.

“Many more students are utilizing office hours than before the pandemic when they came in person, so much so that I likely will continue to use Zoom because it is more time-efficient,” said Kimmins.

Dovie Kimmins, Mathematical Sciences faculty profile at KOM. (Photo: J. Intintoli)

Dovie Kimmins, Mathematical Sciences faculty profile at KOM. (Photo: J. Intintoli)

As a way to keep a record of attendance, the creative educator has asked her students to email her a piece of information or a code word that indicates they attended class. An extra benefit from the exchange is it has helped Kimmins to get to know her students better.

“I ask things like their favorite book, movie, sports team (in addition to the Blue Raiders, of course). I have really enjoyed their responses. This also gives me a chance to respond occasionally with a follow-up question, like ,‘Did class make sense today?’   ‘Do you have questions?’ This gives me another way to feel the pulse of the class,” said Kimmins.

She has also made a change in protocol to gather information remotely, rather than in-person, on a research project she is working on with a colleague, Jeremy Winters, a professor in the College of Education.

“Our project involves interviewing students, college and K-12, about a particular mathematical concept. We were getting ready to start the interviews after spring break, and of course, that fell through the cracks,” said Kimmins. “We are back on track now by utilizing Zoom interviews.”

Meanwhile, she encourages her students to persevere, drawing from a personal collegiate experience when she struggled in a pre-calculus class but refused to give up.

“Students should never give up. Persistence is so very important, whether it be persistence in completing assignments or persistence in asking questions until you understand,” said Kimmins.  “Persistence in grappling with an idea, persistence in pursuing your degree plan or your career goals. Persistence pays off!”

— Patsy Weiler (Patsy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

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