CLARKSTON, Ga.–Art projects are wedged into the small office of Dr. John Weber. There’s an origami dragon in the corner, a three-dimensional, plastic snail shell on a file cabinet and an hourglass made of string on his desk.
Weber isn’t an art instructor. These are the projects from his Calculus 3 class at Georgia State University’s Clarkston Campus.
“I wanted them to create an art object that has a mathematical side behind it,” he said.
Using art to teach mathematical concepts is just one tool Weber uses in the classroom. He also is involved in a National Science Foundation study with Penn State and the University of Texas, El Paso, on how music can help students remember key statistical concepts.
“I am not teaching for students to think like I think,” Weber said. “I always want to encourage a different way of thinking to solve a problem. My desire is for my students to see mathematics is everywhere around them and to create an environment where they can explore that in a non-anxiety-producing way.”
It’s this kind of teaching philosophy that got Weber recognized by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), which is dedicated to the professional development of faculty, administrators and staff toward continued improvement in teaching and learning.
Weber will receive a NISOD top teaching award during the organization’s annual meeting May 27-30 in Austin, Texas.
A chemistry and mathematics double major at La Salle University in Philadelphia, Weber didn’t plan on a teaching career.
“I spent a lot of time in labs,” he said.
So much so, that it wasn’t until he spent a spring break volunteering in the Appalachian mountains that he discovered another side of life. After this time he considered a career in education instead of research. A stint teaching chemistry in an all-girls high school in Chicago while in graduate school clinched his new career choice.
In 2001, he started teaching math part time at Perimeter’s former Rockdale County location while still a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. He’s been a full-time mathematics instructor since 2009.
Although he’s teaching math, Weber still loves science and has been the faculty mentor for a team of Perimeter College engineering students who competed in the National Science Foundation’s Community College Innovation Challenge in 2016. He stays in touch with many of his former students and enjoys watching their careers progress. He also is still working with former engineering students, and will present a paper with two former engineering students in May at the Construct3D Conference at Duke University.
Mentoring is an important part of being an instructor,” he said. “It excites me to see so many of my students become successful.”