Why I teach
Cory Bennett

Cory Bennett

Assistant Professor Educational Foundations

What inspired you to be a university professor?
It started when I was an undergraduate during a fire drill. My professor and I got talking and I guess I made some comment about teaching at the university level. He asked if I really saw myself in academia someday and I said I suppose so. So, with this initial prod, a couple of other fantastic role models, like Jerry Johnson and Chris Ohana at Western Washington University, and the opportunity to do research (as well as teach) I had a strong feeling that this is where I belonged.

Why teach in a university setting?
Since I enjoy research as well, teaching at a university just made sense. Plus, I have the opportunity to potentially have a greater impact in education. If I can help students become the best teachers they can be before they begin their careers, then there is a good chance that they will impact many more of their own students in a much more meaningful way. I think of it as having a compound effect.

If you weren't a university professor what do you think you would be doing?
Somehow, I do not think surfing would be an acceptable answer but I am a teacher at heart. For several years I worked as a mountain guide in the Pacific Northwest but it was the teaching aspects that I found the most appealing. Prior to coming to ISU I was an 8th grade mathematics teacher in Hawaii and taught as an adjunct at two universities in Hawaii. So, I would likely still be teaching in some capacity or be somewhere I could have an impact on education in some way, specifically with respect to mathematics education.

What has teaching taught you about yourself?
I have learned that I can have greater patience, compassion and empathy than I expected.

What is the most difficult aspect of teaching?
I feel teaching comes pretty naturally. I am constantly trying to think about what my class would be like for a student; would I be happy with how things are going if I were a student in my class, are things "fair?" So for the most part, I do not think of teaching as difficult. However, for me, the most difficult aspect of teaching is likely trying to help students understand that individual grades matter far less than learning. Yet grades and grading are always a sticky point. Nearly every person I have taught (middle school through graduate school) becomes too focused on grades at some point.

What inspired you to enter higher education?
I would say that I am hopeful that I can have a greater impact on teaching and learning in the long run. The compounding effect theory.

Is there an identifying moment where you knew you had a pronounced positive impact upon a student?
Even in the short time that I have been at ISU, students have returned to thank me for my time and efforts. I had one student who would often "battle" me in class. Needless to say they were frustrated at times. Yet, one day I got an email from them basically saying, "Thanks! I now understand why you pushed me in class and I really appreciate it now." Often, my students come to my class hating mathematics and dreading the fact that they will have to teach it but often leave my class feeling confident that they can and many leave with a new perspective; mathematics is fun and beautiful!

What career/life messages do you try to impart upon your students?
Struggle and challenge is normal and can even be ok. That you can only make a change in someone's life if you believe in them; you never know who the next great mathematician will be.

What do you want students to take from their ISU educational experience?
I would like ISU students to look back and believe that because of the strong and caring relationships, challenging course work and meaningful field experiences that they had, that they were give the best preparation to make a difference in their given field of study.