- Title: Instructor of Mathematics
- Institution: Bainbridge College
When Bainbridge College math instructor Amy Wells looked around at the weary faces in her Learning Support Math 0097 classroom one night, she well understood why many of her students were tired-they had worked all day and still faced 100 minutes of instruction before they could head home to their families. Spontaneously, she suggested that perhaps there should be classes that met at 6 a.m. instead of 6 p.m. Some students immediately raised their hands in support of the idea, and Amy realized that such a class could actually meet the needs of our students.
"By having class in the morning before they went to work, students wouldn't be burned out from a day at work, and they could have time with their children in the evening. They would be home when examples need to be set and when kids need to see parents doing homework. This would be quality time for families-as opposed to the time in the morning that is spent rushing around getting kids ready for school," Amy observed. She called each student who registered for the course and confirmed that they knew the class met at 6 a.m. and not 6 p.m., in case the schedule had been misread.
Not only did the class attract 16 students (the average Math 0099 class size that spring), but Amy also experienced excellent retention in this class-more than 82 percent completed this early class as opposed to a 76 percent average in the other Spring 2008 Math 0099 classes. Just three students quit coming to class-and two of them moved away from the area during the semester.
Besides having time at home in the evening with their children, Amy's students also benefited from learning math before the distractions of the day began. Many of them were weak in math or had not studied it for years, like Rebecca Green, who had just completed four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy and hadn't had a math course in 15 years.
"I probably never would have done it without Mrs. Wells," Rebecca said. "She is so enthusiastic that she made you want to be there. For me to come out with an A, she must have done something right!"
Amy even allowed her students to bring coffee into the classroom, and she spent the first 15 minutes reviewing the previous day's concepts as the students became alert and ready for new material. If an emergency arose preventing someone from attending the 6 a.m. class, Amy permitted that student to come to her afternoon class if the employer agreed.
Because of her excellent instruction and outstanding responsiveness to her students, Amy's student evaluations were a perfect 5.0 in all 15 areas of the evaluation form. One student credits Amy with keeping her in college: "She was very patient with me even though I planned on dropping the class. Her words of encouragement made me stay."
More than one-half of students at Bainbridge College are nontraditional (the average age of our student population is 28)-and many have full-time jobs and families. Going to school is a challenge for these students-but Amy Wells figured out an innovative way to help students with the sacrifices they make for their education. While Amy has always given students extra help at times beyond normal office hours, even meeting students at Burger King and Wal-Mart during their lunch hours, this year she truly went the extra mile (long before most faculty members were awake) to provide customer service for her students.
Excerpt from nomination by Tonya Strickland.