Leitze: Students Need Faculty Relationships to Make a Connection

For just one student in North Dakota, Ann Leitze, professor of mathematical sciences and graduate advisor, began teaching online.

In the fall of 2009, she chose to admit the student and teach in a hybrid format, virtually to her online student and face-to-face to main-campus students. Her goal was to grow the online MA in mathematics education. Today, she routinely has 85-90 students enrolled online each semester in the MA’s three concentrations, two graduate certificates, and another MA.

“Without a relationship with the professor and classmates, many [students] do not feel comfortable reaching out to the professor—or classmates—for help.”

Led by Lifelong Love of Learning

“Having online math programs available is absolutely necessary for Indiana math educators to pursue graduate study,” Ann says, noting that a “lifelong love of learning” drew her to graduate study and eventually teaching at the university level.

She says about 50 percent of her graduate students are Indiana teachers. “For many years, Indiana teachers pursuing graduate study were few and far between,” she recalls. Although she sees progress, she thinks a need remains for teachers with advanced degrees.

Ann is proud of the success in growing Ball State’s graduate math education program, which offers concentrations for elementary and middle school mathematics teachers, secondary school teachers, and elementary or middle school mathematics education specialists as well as the master’s in foundational mathematics teaching in the community college.

License for Specialists Approved

She’s happy to report that the third concentration, for elementary or middle school mathematics education specialists, was recently approved by the State of Indiana as the only program in the state leading to a new Indiana license for elementary mathematics specialists.

As graduate advisor for math education, she wants online students to know that professors support them.

Says Relationships Required

“Without a relationship with the professor and classmates, many of them do not feel comfortable reaching out to the professor—or classmates—for help,” she says.

Ann says she sets high standards for her students.

“I challenge them to perform to their full capacity,” she says. “I want my students not only to have an understanding of mathematics at the appropriate level, but also to have familiarity with appropriate models and methods for teaching mathematics.”

Believes Her Role is Mentoring, Modeling

She believes her primary professional role includes both mentoring and modeling.

“I push myself to model best teaching practices for both students and junior faculty,” she says.

Earlier in her Ball State career, Ann led the Elementary Urban Semester, working with K-12 teachers in underprivileged schools. Designed to integrate science and mathematics at the elementary school and university levels, the program received the 2002 School Science and Mathematics Association Award for Excellence in Integrating Science and Mathematics and the 2004 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Best Practice Award in Support of Diversity.