By Mary McClintock ’82
Greenfield Community College students and alumni aren’t the only ones who know Linda Cavanaugh is a superb math teacher and dedicated educator. Linda’s peers across New England also recognize her skill and dedication. At their annual conference held at GCC on October 26, members of the Learning Assistance Association of New England (LAANE) presented Linda with their Outstanding Support to Developmental Education Award. In her 32 years at GCC, Linda has served as Professor and Chair of the Math department, Academic Dean, and Associate Dean. Since 2003, Linda has chaired the Math Department, taught math, and facilitated math delivery innovations. Throughout her career, Linda has been a champion for GCC’s developmental math courses, those courses that prepare students to do college-level work in math.
Linda grew up wanting to be a teacher. After completing a Bachelor’s degree at UMass, Linda took a job teaching high school math. She quickly realized it wasn’t right for her and returned to UMass to pursue a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Biostatistics. In 1980, while waiting to defend her Master’s thesis, Linda agreed to teach a summer math course at GCC. Linda fell in love with her students and with GCC, especially enjoying her students’ eagerness and motivation to learn. Linda started teaching part-time at GCC, and then joined GCC’s faculty full-time in January 1981.
What makes Linda’s teaching so special? Linda recognizes that students in GCC’s developmental courses have struggled to learn math as it is traditionally taught. She knows they often come to those courses with a gap of many years since taking math and/or with feelings of self-doubt and anxiety along with a lot of courage and perseverance. Linda and her colleagues in GCC’s Math department acknowledge those feelings and present material in ways students can learn. For many students, it is their first opportunity to succeed in math. Linda has initiated and supported learning communities at GCC from course centered communities, such as one focused on developmental math, reading, and writing, to the establishment of the Math studio.
Linda also has pioneered efforts to broaden math teaching in elementary and middle schools, helping teachers learn how to teach math so all students can learn. Weekend workshops with teachers and a local television program featuring area teachers and students called the Math Connection that ran from 1990-95 are two of the ways Linda has promoted more effective math teaching methods.
According to Linda, good teaching goes beyond good techniques. She said, “Teaching is all about heart. You have to be willing to give of yourself since students are giving so much of themselves. GCC is a place with a very big open heart. None of my accomplishments have been done in isolation. We have dedicated our lives to helping people achieve their goals and recognize their potential. I am extremely touched and honored to be recognized by LAANE.”
The Learning Assistance Association of New England (LAANE), a regional affiliate of the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE), is dedicated to the acceptance, advancement, and improvement of developmental education through research and practice. GCC’s Peer Tutoring Program Co-coordinator Norman Beebe serves on the Executive Board of LAANE, chairs the conference proposal committee, and served as site coordinator for this year’s conference. Over 100 educators from throughout New England attended the conference. Norman said, “Because GCC is committed to open access, developmental courses are essential. We meet people wherever they are in their learning and help them get to where they need to be to succeed in college. With this award, LAANE recognizes Linda’s many contributions to developmental education at GCC and beyond.”
GCC’s Chief Academic and Student Affairs Officer Sheryl Hruska reflected on the award saying, “Linda has an outstanding and well-deserved reputation as a teacher, leader, and instructional innovator. I am thrilled that both Linda and the impact of her work have been broadly and publicly affirmed through this award.”
For more information about LAANE, visit www.laanechapter.org.