You can’t hide in a mathematics class with Professor Norah Esty.
Esty believes in calling on students to break through the “initial inertia” that prevents them from volunteering answers. “If you’re sleeping in class at a school like Stonehill, everyone will know,” she says. “But I think it’s good for students to know that people are watching out for them, in a positive way.”
Having grown up “mathematically,” with a math professor father, Esty says she enjoys showing students that math is a language, with its own vocabulary and grammar – and that it can be fun. The ability to reach students with that lesson through one-on-one time with them is what drew her to a faculty position at Stonehill six years ago.
“You get to know students throughout their four years at Stonehill and become invested in what they’re learning,” says Esty. “At a larger school you might never see students again after having them in a class.”
Since arriving at Stonehill, Esty has worked to share her enthusiasm for math with students. A believer in math as a social endeavor, Esty facilitated the opening of the college’s first Math Lounge, a destination for students to work on problems, share ideas and enjoy math together. Esty also runs the Stonehill Math Club, where students gather to solve problem sets over pizza. And once a year, Esty “badgers” a few students into taking the ultimate math challenge: the national Putnam Exam. “It’s a grueling, six-hour exam on a Saturday in December,” she says. “The median score is zero; you take it for math ‘street cred.’” She rewards those students with dinner at a local grill.
Esty says that in addition to engaged students, Stonehill is fortunate to have faculty who “really care” about teaching. That shared drive to become better teachers is in full view when faculty gather during Oasis, an informal faculty social club that Esty co-founded. “We talk about the students and teaching – what’s working, what isn’t,” says Esty. “People who come to teach at Stonehill are here because they thoroughly enjoy teaching.”