By Stephanie McMillen
Richard Weinsier, math support center coordinator at the East Campus, is described by his supervisor as “a pillar” in the math center.
“His many years of experience demonstrate his commitment to helping students not only learn about math but to love math as much as he does,” said Robin Kratzer, manager of the Academic Success Center on East Campus. “Richard is dedicated to helping students understand why math is important in their daily lives.”
Richard grew up in Orlando during the 1950s and had a childhood experience that he said was “a little different than most of my friends.” His father was a naturopathic physician – someone who works with nature to restore people’s health – and owned a vegetarian health spa.
“It was rather difficult being a vegetarian at that time as it was hard for my friends to understand why,” Richard shared, “but I survived through high school with my brown bag lunch each day.”
It was his eleventh grade geometry teacher who created an environment that sparked Richard’s love of math. “Geometry was just a like a puzzle in that I had to find the steps to get a conclusion that I already knew,” Richard explained.
When he graduated from high school, Richard went to the University of Florida to pursue an engineering degree. Two years later, he realized that he had little interest in doing the day-to-day work of an engineer, so he transferred to Berry College in Rome, Georgia to become a math teacher.
After graduating, Richard began his career as a seventh grade math teacher at Howard Junior High School in Orlando from which he had graduated eight years earlier. Six years later he jumped at the opportunity to help open a new school, Conway Middle School, which Richard noted, “had air conditioning!”
“The first 25 years of teaching were great as I was involved in variety of activities,” Richard said. “My classes were known by their activities and accomplishments.”
Some of Richard’s class activities included designing and building cardboard homes to scale, measuring the school hallways, solving “stumpers” (something he still has on the Valencia Math Center website), classroom TIP (think in pairs) contests, and game days that made his students think while having fun.
“My classroom also had the school’s first Tandy Radio Shack computer, which challenged [students’] computer skills,” Richard said.
After 30 years of teaching middle school, Richard retired and applied for an adjunct position on Valencia’s East Campus. Initially Richard was under the impression that he would teach a few classes, but after three years decided to interview for his current position. “What I got was 16 computers and a small area on the first floor of Building 4; everything else we have today I had to build from the ground up,” he explained.
Today the Math Center employs over 50 assistant tutors, uses a quarter of the first floor of Building 4, and assists students from every math class at Valencia. The center serves as an integral aspect of the East Campus learning support services.
“I am most proud of putting together this area, along with Amanda Saxman, from the math department,” Richard said. “Colleges from around the country continually visit our center to see how we run our program so they can use the information to improve theirs.”
Since he has been at Valencia, Richard said he was been positively influenced by Maryke Lee, dean of mathematics on East Campus. “She has encouraged me to try new things, to think big, and most importantly, she has supported my ideas by finding the time to discuss a project and then secure the monies to make it happen,” Richard said.
After celebrating his 70th birthday recently, Richard considered retirement. “I think about it quite often, but I always come to the same conclusion; I enjoy what I do, who I work with, and the challenges that come with it,” he said. “Maybe I’ll retire at 80, or not!”
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