By Dani Moritz-Long
A mother of five, Mathematics Professor Joanne Kiriazes’ maternal instincts play a prominent role in her work as a developmental math educator. Her personal experiences as a mother and intrinsic drive to help others deeply affect her desire to build relationships with students that can foster trust and confidence in their learning journey.
“I create a caring, safe environment for my students to learn foundational math skills and proper academic skills so that they can be successful in their future math classes,” she said. “I try to be my students’ advocate. I treat them like I want my own children to be treated by their instructors.”
In doing so, Joanne sees each new semester as a “fresh start to try ideas out and to meet all new students.” Throughout the semester, she employs playful learning techniques to encourage and develop students’ mathematics learning.
Inspired by Joanne’s hands-on, compassionate approach, fellow Mathematics Professor Alison Hammack commented on Joanne’s use of these active-learning techniques, like using personal white boards, infusing learning games into the curriculum and developing creative lab activities that both physically and mentally engage students.
“She is always willing to help,” Allison said, “and she goes above and beyond.”
Echoing Alison’s sentiment, Mathematics Dean Maryke Lee added, “Joanne has boundless energy and works hard to create meaningful activities for her students.”
Grateful for her role at Valencia, Joanne says she draws inspiration from students and fellow faculty alike.
“I am inspired by the dedication and generosity of my colleagues,” she said. “The Math department really supports and cares about each other. It functions as a team with student success as its goal. I am inspired each day watching the hard work and care that occurs in our classrooms.”
Further cementing Joanne’s admiration for her colleagues, she noted a recent experience with other Valencia math instructors, in which the 20-person cohort collectively completed graduate-level math classes to further their own development and, more importantly, enhanced their ability to impact Valencia students.
“As part of this group, I have met wonderful, dedicated instructors from all of the Valencia campuses,” she explained. “In addition to the intended result of becoming more math proficient, the cohort has been so beneficial as we have shared classroom strategies regularly, and we have become friends.”
In addition to possessing these graduate-level mathematics credits, Joanne, who worked as a structural engineer before taking a hiatus to care for her children, also boasts a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in secondary mathematics education.
During her free time, you can find her “playing tourist” with her family — visiting beaches, theme parks and water parks (and, quite possibly, evaluating the infrastructural integrity of said parks).
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.