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Michael Wynn | Social Community Manager

Vivian Simmons – FA21 Faculty Impact Award Recipient

From an early age, Program Chair for Mathematics & Economics Vivian Simmons, was taught the value of an education and the limitless opportunities that come with it.  Raised by her grandparents who only spoke Spanish and whose formal education ended before college, she knew the importance of learning but found school to be challenging.

“I was raised by my grandparents who didn’t speak English,” Simmons reflected.  “My grandfather had a sixth-grade education and my grandmother dropped out of high school.   This was all in Puerto Rico.  They were in favor of education, but they didn’t have the tools to help me.  So, I found myself struggling in school a lot.”

Recipient of the Fall 2021 Faculty Impact Award, which is presented to a faculty member nominated by students for going well beyond the typical expectations of a professor, Simmons discovered her passion for teaching when one of her math teachers would stay after school each day to help her with the difficulties she was having.

“It wasn’t because of the subject matter, but because of the time she took with me,” she said.  “She guided me through it and showed me genuine compassion and care.  So, it wasn’t really the subject (of math) that I fell in love with, it was just my teacher who helped me.”

It was this experience that would set her on the path to becoming the professor she is today.  Inspired by the authentic and personal support of this one influential teacher, she found a love for helping her peers during her own undergraduate education.

“[In college] I found myself tutoring people in math,” Simmons shared.  “We had a little study group and I was helping them understand the math.  When I was doing that, it was the happiest experience I had.  After a few months I got the epiphany – I’m like ‘I want to be a teacher.  I want to be a math teacher.’”

This joy she has for helping others mixed with her compassionate nature is what makes every course she teaches truly special.  Simmons, whose career also included singing professionally as part of a recording gospel choir and backup for Macy Gray, knows that many students find learning mathematics intimidating.

“I infuse a lot of singing into my teaching, and you know, the students seem to like it,” she said.  Her approachability, friendliness, and warmth, along with a bit of fun, makes each class session relaxed and engaging, promoting a more comfortable learning environment for a subject that is often marked by stress and anxiety for the learner.

“At the beginning of each semester, I often hear students say, ‘I hate math’ and I think a past experience shapes that attitude,” Simmons said.  “If they deal with math in a negative way early on, it just follows them.  I want to show them that they can be good at math, and that what they’re learning is both useful and cool.”

Her commitment to the success of her students extends well beyond the classroom.  While she is involved in several aspects of the student experience outside of academics, including serving as the founding advisor for Los Latinos Club, it is the personal connections she has with her students that mean the most.  Working with one of her students, who was anxious about math, Simmons was able to be that caring and compassionate teacher she herself had many years ago.

“They were a great student, but already had math anxiety going into my class,” she said.   “We would meet outside of class all the time to review concepts, and they started sharing different aspects of their personal life that I could relate to.  I was able to share advice and tips and, while they never said it, I knew they saw that, despite how busy I was, I always had the time to talk with them and that I truly cared about their success.”

Upon receiving this award, Simmons had this to share:

“I’ve worked with and established a rapport with countless numbers of students, and I have made it a point to make whatever I teach fun and as life applicable as possible, infusing my passion for the subject matter.  My greatest satisfaction is being in that classroom and getting to experience that moment when it all makes sense for my students. Thank you to all the students who nominated me and thank you Post for allowing me the opportunity to share my love for teaching mathematics with our students.”

The Faculty Impact Award recognizes members of the Post University faculty that reach beyond the standard expectations for online and/or campus instructors. These faculty members are a true testament to the Post University values and make it personal by forging a strong connection and relationship with students, providing outstanding educational guidance based on field expertise, and inspiring students to become the best version of themselves.