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K-State Today

September 22, 2016

Kansas State Polytechnic names mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman winner of 2016 Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence

Submitted by Julee Cobb

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman, who has served the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for almost 10 years, is the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. The honor, established more than 30 years ago, annually recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic faculty member's commitment in the classroom, service to students and overall merit as a teacher.

While becoming an educator wasn't on her radar until graduate school, Hartman's natural talent and innovative intuition are evidence the classroom is where she belongs. Hartman has been able to successfully take a subject often dreaded by students and transform it into a comprehensible ally. And knowing that the price of education is of equal concern to students as understanding the material, Hartman has incorporated cost effective measures into her teaching.

Hartman is the first faculty member at Kansas State Polytechnic to implement the open textbook initiative. She has essentially abandoned traditional textbooks in her college algebra and general calculus classes; in their place, she created a series of 10- to 15-minute videos that explain the information step by step. Students are able to access the videos online and can pause, rewind and watch them as many times as they like until the math problem is understood.

"Math textbooks haven't always made sense to me, which is disappointing because that is my profession; and if I can't grasp how the material is laid out in the books, then why should I expect my students to?" said Hartman, who also teaches the courses online. "The purpose of an alternative or open textbook is to provide cost savings for students while improving the quality of the learning process. Because of the videos, students are not required to buy a textbook in college algebra and general calculus, and the information is adapted in such a way it can easily be understood."

Hartman, who also teaches Intermediate Algebra and Intro to Statistics, says one of her career goals, once she got into teaching, has been to author her own textbook. Even though she thought at first the ambition might be crazy and unrealistic, she continued to dream about composing an instructional tool that actually aids students, not acts as a confusing hindrance.

"With the math videos, in a roundabout way, I turned a farfetched idea into reality. I never imagined I would actually be able to create my own alternative textbook, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance and other teachers should too. If you strongly believe in doing something, go for it!" Hartman said.

That persistent will to succeed was first honed while growing up on a pig farm in small-town Summerfield, Kansas, where Hartman was tasked with completing her older brothers' chores once they left for college. She cultivated that determined spirit in high school at Axtell Public School where she became competitive with some of her classmates over their math test scores. And it was during this battle for superior student that Hartman realized she had a knack for numbers.

Hartman attended Fort Hays State University where she received a bachelor's degree in mathematics. Unsure how to turn her major into a profession, she continued her education at Kansas State University working toward her master's in mathematics. While at K-State, Hartman was a graduate teaching assistant and says the process of leading a classroom came natural to her. Hartman's teaching advisors even complemented her on the way she was able to connect with students.

What solidified Hartman's future in the education world was a chance meeting with one of Kansas State Polytechnic's faculty members. Hartman just happened to be the only graduate teaching assistant in her office when Don Von Bergen, the director of the Polytechnic Campus' arts, sciences and business department at the time, came inquiring about appropriate qualifications for a math instructor that could be listed on a new job posting. Hartman later applied for the open position of math instructor at Kansas State Polytechnic and was chosen for the job.

Since arriving on the Polytechnic Campus in 2007, and along with teaching four math sections and online classes, Hartman holds workshops to assist students who need extra help learning how to use graphing calculators. She also has served as the faculty sponsor for the campus' dance team, the Spirit Cats; was elected chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of Faculty Senate; and has won several other awards, including a distance learning award and the 2016 Educator of the Year honor from the campus' Multicultural Student Union.

Hartman, now a Salina resident, has been married to her husband Bret since 2009 and the couple currently has two children — daughter, Autumn, who is 3 years old, and son, Braxton, who turned 2 in July — and is expecting their third child in February 2017.