Barry McNamara  |   Published November 27, 2016

New professor

Bair enjoys making an impact on future teachers
  • Associate Professor of Educational Studies Sherry Bair
On a beautiful sunny day in early November, new Associate Professor of Educational Studies Sherry Bair said that it was such weather that helped draw her back to the Midwest after teaching three years at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

When the emerita professor at Illinois State University retired after nearly 20 years in Bloomington-Normal, she did so in the month of December, and the draw of a southern climate was enticing.

But Bair, who grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Dubuque, now has a deeper appreciation for the Midwest’s four seasons. She is also now just two hours away from her mother, who still lives in Dubuque.

A third benefit to Bair’s new home is Monmouth College itself.

“It’s a lot like UD,” she said. “We’re talking about teaching and working with the students, rather than getting the next article published or writing the next grant. The major focus is student learning. The more I looked into Monmouth, I read about its ‘Integrated Studies,’ and I thought ‘Yes! Someone gets it.’”

While a junior high and high school student, Bair made an important observation about student learning.

“In one of my junior high classes, I had a teacher who, if you asked a question because you didn’t understand a math concept, she sent you up to the chalkboard to try to work it out in front of whole class,” said Bair. “It was terrible. Pretty soon, no one would ask questions. Then in high school, I had a teacher who was just the opposite, really attending to students and knowing how to bring out the best in them.”

She continued, “I realized that instead of just going into math, I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be the one to say ‘You can do this. You can make sense of this.’”

While doing graduate work at Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University), Bair taught several courses, including math for future elementary education teachers.

“Most of them didn’t know what they should already know,” said Bair, who holds a Ph.D. in mathematics education from the University of Missouri. “They didn’t know some basic computational skills. They didn’t know percentages! That was an eye-opener for me. I thought to myself, ‘I need to be working with this population. This is where I’m going to make the biggest impact.’”

Bair did all her previous work toward that goal while employed in mathematics departments. She is pleased to be part of the educational studies program at Monmouth, where she is working on revamping the math courses that future teachers take, with a goal of “helping them to deeply understand the math they’ll be teaching.”

She also gets to sit in on math department meetings, enabling her to serve as a bridge between the two disciplines.

“At some of the places I’ve been, there’s almost been an adversarial relationship between math and education,” she said. “Here at Monmouth, it’s been so much more collegial as we discuss how to handle courses and what changes need to be made.”

When not teaching at Monmouth or visiting Dubuque, Bair enjoys renovating her new home in Monmouth. She did similar work to her home in Corpus Christi.

“I get to apply a lot of the math I’m teaching in the measurements I need to make and all that, plus I get to add a little bit of style,” she said with a smile.
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