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Grad Focus

Jessica Stewart Provides More Than Math

"Walking into an undergraduate classroom on the first day of the semester, I can feel the tension," says Jessica Stewart, a Teacher of Record in Mathematics at Baylor University. "There are the usual first day jitters from first-years and seniors alike."

Stewart understands that tension. A doctoral candidate in Baylor's Mathematics program, Stewart spends a lot of time on the other side of the desk. Her compassion for the students she teaches must carry over. Because of her excellence in the teaching of mathematics, Stewart recently accepted the 2013 Outstanding Graduate Instructor Award.

Every professor Stewart works with recognizes the unique impact she has on her students. For this reason, she was also awarded the Baylor Mathematics Department Outstanding Teaching Award in both 2011 and 2012.

To most students, math is about numbers, letters, formulas, and precision. However, Stewart works hard to ensure that her students know that math is so much more than that.

"Mathematics teaches us to analyze situations; to think critically and logically through problems; to use our existing knowledge; and to identify and search for new knowledge - these are the parts of mathematics that I love and this is the type of mathematics that I want my students to experience," says Stewart.

Though Stewart is an incredibly talented teacher, she humbly attributes much of her success to her professors and her mentor, Dr. Constanze Liaw. Just as mentorship has aided in Stewart's development as a teacher, she extends this same mentorship to her students.

One of Stewart's students, Jared Lovelace, mentions Stewart's availability and willingness to take time out of her schedule to meet one-on-one with students.

"She was also very interested in us as individuals and what we were going through. Ultimately we all gained a relationship with her, and it made us more comfortable asking questions in class," says Lovelace.

To ensure that even the most timid student's voice was heard, Stewart required reflections at the end of each class. This allowed students the opportunity to express in writing what they liked about class, what confused them, and what they were curious about.

"It is my goal for students to become 'self-aware' and 'self-critical' problem solvers through thoughtful consideration of their work. I believe that only when students have such awareness, will they have the ability and confidence to approach problems that do not have simple formulas," Stewart says.

By the time Stewart's students walk out the door on the last day of class, they have not only learned how to solve calculus problems; they have refined their abilities to think critically, solve problems, and discover creative solutions.

Thanks to Jessica Stewart's passion and devotion she is ensuring her students have what it takes to be successful at Baylor and beyond.