First-generation K-Stater passes on love of math to college students
In 2007, Christopher Juarez '10, '12 transferred to Kansas State University after completing two years at Garden City Community College.
Juarez, now a faculty member at the Community College of Aurora, in Colorado, uses his experience as a first-generation college student to relate to his pupils. In February, Juarez received the CCA Faculty of the Year Award.
While at K-State, Juarez began making friends, found a niche in the Department of Statistics and got involved in a research project through the McNair Scholars Program.
Working with Leigh Murray, a now-retired professor of statistics, his McNair project assisted a graduate in the Food Science Program researching yogurt.
"I remember at the time I was so overwhelmed about how much knowledge I didn't have about yogurt and Dr. Murray told me I didn't need to know about yogurt, she said 'you just need to know how to work with data,'" Juarez said. "She made me feel like I could do it and was there championing for me."
This led Juarez to continue at K-State and earn a master's degree in statistics, where he discovered his love for teaching while working as a graduate teaching assistant. After graduating he returned to Garden City Community College to teach math.
In 2014, he started teaching at Community College of Aurora, bringing with him experience as a first-generation college student and a passion for teaching instilled by his instructors at K-State.
Juarez said he designs his courses around analogies and practical ideas rather than just having students solve for "x". On the first day of class each semester, Juarez takes his students through an interactive syllabus which takes them to his office, the Library Resource Center, math lab and other resources that might be helpful.
Additionally, he makes himself available to students when they need assistance, hold tutoring hours and test preps at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays and Saturday mornings. He is also involved with CCA's honors program.
He recently began working as a content math expert for Complete College America, a national organization devoted to helping Americans attain quality career certificates or college degrees.
Juarez said he makes it a point to be accessible to make it easier for his students to learn the subject material rather than give up.
"I love [working with] students who didn't think they could something and showing them you can do it and you can even actually do more," he said.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of the K-Stater, a magazine for K-State Alumni Association members. It was written by Tim Schrag.