Year in Review 2021-22

year in review 2021-22

Learn more about Summit 2022
Michelle Homp introduces Mona Toncheff at 2022 NE Summit on Math and Science Education
Leen-Kiat Soh (from left), Wendy Smith, Mindi Searls and Brittany Duncan sit in Avery Hall. (Craig Chandler, UComm)

Project aims to smooth STEM students’ path from 2-year to 4-year institutions

For students at a two-year college, making the jump to a four-year institution can be daunting. The transition often entails leaving tight-knit communities, smaller classes and daily interactions with instructors for full lecture halls, farther-removed teachers and a larger, more affluent student body. Figuring out financial aid, planning course loads and navigating an ingrained social hierarchy add to the pressure. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is leading a 22-institution research collaboration aimed at smoothing this transition by building strong partnerships between two- and four-year colleges. With a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will conduct research aimed at filling a critical gap in the national understanding of what it takes to help transfer students succeed. Nebraska, whose share of the award is nearly $1.5 million, will headquarter the new research hub. It is one of the first four research hubs funded through a new NSF program that builds on the agency’s longstanding Scholarships in STEM program, or S-STEM, which funds scholarships and institutional support systems for low-income STEM students. Through the research hubs, NSF aims to identify what’s working — and what’s not — at S-STEM sites using mixed-methods research. Each hub has a different focus, with the overall goal of pinpointing the conditions that facilitate success for the STEM students. Wendy Smith, research professor of mathematics and incoming director of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, is the project’s principal investigator. Read more

Mona Toncheff presents “Disrupting Unproductive Mindsets and Practices using Strengths-Based Teaching" on Saturday morning on Zoom.

Resources from third Nebraska Summit on Math and Science Education

125 science and mathematics teachers, district curriculum coordinators, Nebraska Department of Education curriculum specialists, and University of Nebraska faculty who hailed from one end of the state to the other attended the Nebraska Summit on Math and Science Education, June 3-4. Download resources and slides from the Summit. Postponed from February, the Summit welcomed four keynote speakers, Dr. Hortensia Soto, Dr. Felicia Mensah, Mona Toncheff and Dr. Amanda Morales. In the afternoon session, over a dozen science teachers shared successful lessons with conference participants in an exhibition format. Numerous other teachers visited the tables and gathered ideas for science lessons to try in their own classrooms. At the end of the day, Christine Gustafston (NATS president, Millard Public Schools); Audrey Webb (NDE science specialist); and Beth Lewis (UNL, professor science education) organized "Setting Science Education Priorities for Nebraska Town Hall" for over 40 conference participants. They were joined by NATS past-presidents Betsy Barent (LPS Science Curriculum Coordinator) and Jodi Bahr (Harvard Public Schools, NSTA District XI Director) in providing an update on recent developments in science education across the state. Deb Romanek and her team of grade-level facilitators led breakouts with updates on the Nebraska Department of Education Mathematics Standards.Read more

Professor Dan Claes assists Noyce MTFs with a physics problem in PHYS 892 in 2022.

First cohort recruited for Noyce Master Teaching Fellows in science

Teachers were recruited for the first cohort of Noyce Master Teaching Fellows (MTFs) in science. With goals to increase student interest and success in science by enhancing knowledge of equitable and inclusive science teaching and learning, this new, five-year Educational Specialist Science Education and Educational Leadership certificate and long-term professional development program for secondary science teachers (Grades 7-12) was funded by the National Science Foundation (DUE-2050650). Teachers will engage in National Board Certification and inclusive science education and teacher leadership activities and join a national community of NSF Noyce MTFs. Teachers selected as MTFs will receive a $10,000 annual salary supplement. Read more

A representation of faculty networks at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of South Florida and Boise State University

NSF-funded, Husker-led project to evaluate open-access educational resources

As both a biology instructor and an award-winning researcher of biology instruction, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Brian Couch understands the magnitude of asking someone to reconsider what they teach and how they teach. That was the ground-shifting charge laid down by the National Science Foundation in its 2011 report “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology: A Call to Action.” Biology had seen massive changes in the decades prior, spurred by technological leaps that were revealing big-picture, big-data connections long obscured by their sheer complexity. New theories of learning, meanwhile, had raised questions about the value of rote memorization, the limits of conventional lecturing and the potential of injecting interaction into classrooms. Read more

Former NebraskaMATH participants Jeff Depue, Kenzi Medeiros, and Greg Sand are three of the eight instructors who began working together in at UNO Mathematics in June 2021.

UNO mathematics hires former teachers as faculty for first-year courses

An overhaul of the first-year mathematics courses at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is underway. With the recent hires of 10 new faculty, including two tenure-track and eight instructors, the Department of Mathematics at UNO aims to bring about a change in its teaching philosophy and, ultimately, improve general education mathematics. Associate Professor of Mathematics Nicole Infante, director of this newly formed Quantitative Reasoning team, oversees efforts to implement active learning environments instead of traditional lectures, into UNO’s first-year courses. In 2021, she joined Assistant Professor Karina Uhing, who was hired in 2020 and had earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Former NebraskaMATH participants Jeff Depue, Kenzi Medeiros, and Greg Sand are three of the eight instructors on the team, who began working together in June 2021. Read more

James Webb Space Telescope

Vonk, Brande speak at Nebraska Physics and Astronomy Fall Summit

The Nebraska Physics and Astronomy Fall Summit and biannual meeting of the Nebraska Chapter of the American Association of Physics Teachers, was held Saturday, Oct. 16, in Jorgensen Hall on the UNL City Campus. Keynote speakers hailed from Pivot Interactives and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope team. Matt Vonk of the University of Wisconsin–River Falls and Pivot Interactives gave a talk titled “Harnessing the Power of the Cloud to Make Teaching Better and More Efficient." Yoni Brande of the University of Kansas discussed “Exoplanet Science with the James Webb Space Telescope” and presented the public Ruckman Lecture, “The Invisible Sky with JWST,” on Friday, Oct. 15.

Nebraska’s David Harwood answers a question from Jackson Belva during a Geology 125: Frontiers in Antarctic Geosciences lesson in 2019. The class is based on Harwood’s experience in Antarctica. Craig Chandler | UComm

Harwood to help lead new Antarctic drilling project

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientist will help lead a new multinational team that is drilling into Antarctica’s past to gain a glimpse at Earth’s future. As the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP26) focuses on science and national investment to combat climate change, researchers are preparing to drill into the ocean floor below Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf to discover if cutting greenhouse gas emissions could avoid catastrophic melting of the icy continent. David Harwood, a micropaleontologist and geologist at Nebraska, will be responsible for dating sediment cores and interpreting environmental changes on the new project. He will coordinate the geochronology of the cores and be one of the U.S. representatives on the science leadership team. Read more Can United Nations conference save Antarctic glaciers?

Duncan Aviation tour

Women in Science Conference features Duncan Aviation, East Campus workshops

The Nebraska Women in Science Conference is designed to expose high school students to a wide variety of science-related fields and encourage them to pursue majors and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, through the work of women currently working in the sciences. In 2022, 66 students from 16 high schools in Nebraska and one in Kansas were selected by their high school science instructors to participate in the conference, which was held in-person for the first time since 2019. The conference began with an opportunity for students to attend a tour of Duncan Aviation. The tour, organized by Tracy Bohaboj, included a walk through of an aircraft in the process of a remodel, as well as viewing projects in the engineering shops. Women aerospace engineers spoke to the group about their jobs designing and engineering the cabinetry and fixtures in the aircraft and discussed the trajectory of their career paths. On Friday night, the conference continued with a department displays fair with 25 departments represented from across the UNL City and East Campuses, and a banquet with keynote speaker Dr. Brittany Duncan, of the School of Computing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During this talk, students were able to learn about Duncan's research in improving the ability of flying robots to better interact with people and the world around them. On Saturday morning, students had the opportunity to engage in workshops with UNL faculty and staff. These workshops included: Animal Science, organized Dr. Andrea Watson, where students learned about nutrients needed by ruminant animals, and made a nutrient dense ration that they could eat; Forestry, with Hanna Pinneo, where students got a look at the process and importance of forest and natural resources management; Entomology, with Dr. Ana Maria Velez Arango, where students heard about the vital ecological benefits insects provide; and Vet and Biomedical Sciences, by Taylor Nielsen, where students competed with one another through an interactive game based on surgical procedures for animals.


Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics

The 2022 Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the twenty-fourth such conference, was held virtually January 20-23, 2022. Broadly, this conference was similar to its predecessors: there were 179 undergraduate participants; the main program was 68 talks or posters by 78 undergraduate participants on their own research, and three panel discussions on graduate school, careers in mathematics and bits of advice. There were 179 undergraduate women participants from 91 institutions and 42 faculty. The three plenary speakers were Joan Ferrini-Mundy (University of Maine), Pamela E. Harris (Williams College), and Talithia Williams (Harvey Mudd College). The following people were invited panelists: Antonia Bluher (National Security Agency), Bridget Butler (Wells Fargo), Sara Del Valle (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Tiziana Giorgi (National Science Foundation), Brittney Keel-Mercer (USDA), Kay Kirkpatrick (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Kristina Swift (Weber Shandwick), Henry A. Warchall (National Science Foundation). Learn more

Math 812T: Geometry with Dr. Adam Larios

Nebraska Math and Science Summer Institutes

The Nebraska Math and Science Summer Institutes put flexibility first and offered 14 courses via web conferencing in the summer of 2022, as well as three grant-funded courses in computer science, four fully online courses, and four in-person courses in Gretna, Hastings, and Lincoln. NMSSI courses, grant courses, and courses required for degrees welcomed 160 graduate students for a total of 271 registrations in 23 courses. Of the 160 graduate students, 135 were Cornhusker State teachers and 14 were educators from outside of Nebraska. Science offerings included new courses ASTR 892: Life in the Universe for STEM Teachers (An Introduction to Astrobiology), BIOS 891: Modern Genetics and Inheritance, and PHYS 892: Vectors in Introductory Physics. Teachers in the new NSF-funded Noyce Master Teaching Fellows program for science took PHYS 892, as well as GEOS 898: Methods in Geoscience Field Course Instruction, which was happy to make its return to the outdoors. For more information: NMSSI

Math Day Logo

32nd annual Nebraska Math Day held online

Nearly 800 students from 43 Nebraska high schools participated in the 32nd annual Nebraska Math Day on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, virtually on Zoom, from their classrooms across the state. Two classes of 70 teams participated in five bowl rounds per class. Math Day 2.1 was the second online bowl tournament and was designed to spark high school students’ interest in math, to encourage them to pursue a career in mathematics or the mathematical sciences, and to recognize outstanding mathematical ability. This all-day event consisted of the PROBE I individual competition and the fast-paced Math Bowl 2.1 Swiss-system team competition. The results in the Competitive Class (34 teams) were: Millard North C1 - 1st place, Elkhorn South C2 - 2nd place, Scottsbluff C1 - 3rd place, and Omaha Brownell-Talbot C1 - 4th place. The results in the Recreational Class (36 teams) were: Scottsbluff R2 - 1st place, Bluffs Middle School R1 - 2nd place, Scottsbluff R1 - 3rd place, Lincoln Southwest - 4th place (tie) and Millard South - 4th place (tie). Congratulations to all of the teams who participated! Read more

All Girls All Math welcomed students from across the country

AGAM invites students of all gender identities

This weeklong, historically residential, high school girls summer mathematics camp, welcomed campers in grades 10-12 of all gender identities. The program is designed to provide a thought-provoking and supportive environment for participants to develop their mathematical ability and interest. This year, 18 campers from throughout the United States participated in the AGAM summer camp, July 11-15, 2022, which occurred for the third time ever remotely, via live/synchronous online meetings. Participants learned about the mathematics of cryptography, they attended panel discussions and a mini-course, toured both national and local landmarks, and interacted with peers who share an interest in mathematics during networking activities. Learn more

Michaela Goracke with her family: (from left) son Alex, husband John, son Grant
Michaela Goracke with her family: (from left) son Alex, husband John, son Grant

More Impacts

  • Michaela Goracke accepted the offer to be principal of Doniphan-Trumbull Jr/Sr High School four days before schools shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was a crazy weird first year as an administrator!” added Goracke, who has spent the first two years at Doniphan-Trumbull creating more Career and Technical Education experiences for the students, including an internship program. “I love that my vision of getting kids out of the building to give them opportunities to see what kinds of careers are out there has come to fruition,” Goracke said. “I enjoy working with teachers and helping them grow professionally and seeing their classroom goals accomplished as well.” The Lincoln native and Math in the Middle alumna was a classroom teacher for 17 years and an instructional coach for two years at Hastings Middle School before becoming a principal. As a math teacher, she gained skills in how to effectively help students grasp curriculum. Read more
  • Primarily Math alumni Amy Barton of Lincoln Public Schools and Andrew Boone of Gretna Public Schools were each named state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) and were presented with the awards at the recent Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics (NATM) Conference. Read more
  • Congratulations to the 2022 Nebraska Association for Teachers of Mathematics Award Winners: Cindy Beaman - Don Miller Distinguished Service; Hanna Savidge - Rookie of The Year; Lenny VerMaas - Milton Beckman Lifetime Achievement; and Lorraine Males - Past President. Beaman was in the first cohort of Primarily Math and a Noyce Master Teaching Fellow with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Beaman, who retired last year from Grand Island Public Schools, was nominated for the Don Miller Distinguished Service Award by Dr. Jane Strawhecker of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Beaman was the math curriculum coordinator for the district. Read more
  • Molly Mertz was one of 15 Omaha Public Schools teachers who received the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award in 2022, recognized for their dedication to the more than 53,000 students OPS serves. The annual award highlights teachers’ essential role in our community and society. Mertz (Mroczek) was in cohort 1 of the OPS Teacher Leader Academy Math in the Middle program. She earned her Master of Arts for Teachers degree from the UNL Department of Mathematics in 2015. Read more
  • Lincoln Public Schools’s Remote Learning Program Principal Casey Fries, an alumnus of the Nebraska Algebra and New Teacher Network programs, will be moving into the role of principal at Lincoln East High School this coming fall. Formerly an assistant principal at East, Fries is excited to build upon the strong relationships that he already has formed. Read more
  • As she finished her third year as principal of Bennington Elementary School in 2022, Molly O’Connor is looking back back fondly on the skills she took away from her experience in the 2014-15 ESU 3 cohort of Primarily Math, both as a teacher and as an administrator. “Primarily Math positively impacted my instruction in many ways. What stands out most is my strong understanding of how students learned mathematics,” O’Connor said. “I learned so much about best practice and intentionality of instruction.” This upcoming fall, the Omaha native will be taking on the role of principal at Stratford Elementary, a new school in Bennington. She said she is excited to bring all she has learned from NebraskaMATH courses into the new role. Read more
  • Ethan Van Winkle, a science teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School and a Noyce Master Teaching Fellow in science, has been accepted into the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP). He is one of only a handful chosen in the United States. The program gets educators involved in authentic astronomical research, partnering small groups of educators with a mentor professional astronomer for a year-long original research project using NASA’s vast archives of astronomical data from space- and ground-based telescopes. In exchange, educators are asked to leverage this experience by providing professional development for their colleagues in their local school districts.
  • Primarily Math graduate Becky Unterseher will be transitioning into the role of principal at Pyrtle Elementary this fall after serving as the coordinator of Beattie Elementary since 2017. Before entering the administrative world, Unterseher was a teacher at Beattie Elementary for 12 years, teaching kindergarten, first and second grade. She enjoyed working with other teachers to help students grasp materials. Read more
  • Dr. Beth Lewis, associate professor of science education in the College of Education and Human Sciences’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education (TLTE), has been named a senior advisor in the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education (CSMCE). In her new role, Dr. Lewis will work to build partnerships that reach across departments and colleges to strengthen science education research at UNL. Special emphasis will be placed on supporting faculty in education and the sciences as they pursue external grants that advance the work of both TLTE and the CSMCE. Her portfolio will also include continued efforts to strengthen secondary (grades 7-12) science learning in Nebraska schools through efforts to support both pre- and in-service teacher education programs. Lewis was also granted promotion to full professor, effective Aug. 15, 2022.
  • Seventeen computer science teachers were recruited to the fourth and final cohort of AIR@NE. CSForAll: Adapt, Implement, and Research at Nebraska (AIR@NE) is an NSF-funded grant that examines the adaptation and implementation of a validated K-8 Computer Science curriculum in diverse school districts. Eligible K-8 teachers receive tuition and fees for two graduate courses Introduction to Computer Science I for Teachers (CSCE 805T) and CS Pedagogy (TEAC 851L), $1,500 worth of computer science hardware and software, funding to travel to one conference (e.g., NETA or CSTA), five Saturday meetings ($100 stipend per meeting), and participation in a statewide community of K-8 computer science teachers, providing mutual support for teaching and learning computer science.
  • Two University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty members have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society. Fellows are selected by their peers for scientifically or socially distinguished achievements that advance science or its application. Nebraska’s new AAAS fellows are: Julia McQuillan, Willa Cather Professor of sociology, for distinguished contributions to the study of social inequality, particularly the areas of infertility, public understanding of science, removing inequalities in STEM fields, and communicating science to a wide-ranging public; and Judy Walker, Aaron Douglas Professor of mathematics, for distinguished contributions to algebraic coding theory, and substantial and lasting achievements in advancing educational and career opportunities for women in mathematics..
  • Congratulations to Deepika Menon, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education and the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, for winning an NSF Track 4 research grant to support her project, "Integrated STEM Efficacy (RISE): A Study of Elementary Preservice Teachers and Noyce Scholars."
  • The Nebraska Academy of Sciences awarded two Friends of Science awards at the 132nd Annual Science Conference of the Nebraska Academy of Science in April 2022 to Chris Schaben and Julie Sigmon. Dan Sitzman had the honor of giving the Maiben Memorial Lecture, during which he presented on the History of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences. For over 60 years, the Maiben Memorial Lecturer is the featured speaker at the annual meetings of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences and the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science. Read more
  • Justin Andersson, former Omaha Public Schools science coach and science teacher, and current Educational Psychology doctoral candidate, has received the 2022 College of Education and Human Sciences Graduate Teaching Award from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His advisor is Dr. Eric Buhs.
  • Math in the Middle graduate Karla Bandemer of Lincoln Public Schools's math leadership team was a member of the conference committee for the NCTM regional conference in Indianapolis in March 2022. Read more
  • Danielle Dudo a fourth-grade teacher at Newell Elementary School, Grand Island Public School District is the ORIGO Education Teacher of the Month for August 2021. Dudo, who has been with the Grand Island Public School District for over 15 years is a highly qualified individual with a collection of qualifications to her name including an undergrad at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a master's degree from Doane University, and a K-3 Mathematics Specialist Certificate from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Danielle’s extensive expertise in education and clear passion for mathematics are shown through Danielle’s work as a teacher as well as her taking part in a Math Task Force group which she has been a part of for 14 years.
  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Lorraine Males of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education who has been named the Julie and Henry Bauermeister Professor of Education and Human Sciences.
  • Lincoln Northeast High School math department chair Cassie Seiboldt takes advantage of every opportunity of being a lifelong educator. After she graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Education and Human Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in secondary mathematics education, she applied to the Knowles Teaching Fellows Program as a first-year teacher in 2015. Five years later, Seiboldt has completed the program and has now become a Knowles Senior Fellow.
  • A paper from UNO's Kelly Gomez Johnson and her Robert Noyce Scholarship program colleagues examines learning assistants in active learning college mathematics classrooms to see where and how they find value in their experience. Gomez Johnson and Paula Jakopovic are past NebraskaMATH participants at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Read more