NEWARK, Ohio, May 15, 2018 — Math is possibly the most hated subject by students at Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). Whether it is because of students' dislike of numerical operations or in spite of it, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Nicholas Shay was named the recipient of the 2017-18 Full-Time Teaching Excellence Award at COTC.
"I really appreciate the nomination because I know those come from students and I am honored that they would take the time to nominate me for the award," said Shay. "COTC has a lot of excellent faculty, many of whom work with students in multiple semesters and have the ability to develop a much deeper relationship while they are studying a specific technology. I very rarely have the same student for more than two semesters, so again, the fact that students feel passionate about the experience they had in my class, especially one that many of them have a difficult time with, is a great feeling."
Shay has been employed at COTC for six years and is a repeat nominee for the award. He acknowledges that math was not his own strongest subject and at one time gave him anxiety, a feeling many of his students now express. Shay encourages those students to approach their first college math class with a different attitude. To help students succeed, he establishes a clear structure of each course and follows a similar routine each week. And it's working.
One of his students wrote, "I can honestly say, without a doubt, that Professor Shay is the greatest teacher that I've ever had in my entire life. I am an older student who has put off going back to school due to the fear of math. I am so grateful that I received him as my professor. For the first time in my life, I actually enjoy math. Being a student of Professor Shay has given me a tremendous amount of confidence that has literally changed my life."
Shay also incorporates open communication and dialogue in his classes. Every day includes structured group work where students build relationships with one another. Additionally, he strives to maintain an approachable demeanor both in person and online. It's important to him that students know he is present and there for them no matter how they receive instruction.
"In my face to face courses, I interact with every student every day," said Shay. "It is more difficult in the online setting, but I send a weekly email and am constantly monitoring students' progress in the course. The last few years I have been sending more personal emails if I see either a student begin to struggle, or more importantly, if I see those grades start to climb."
Shay listens too. After hearing "I'm just not a good test taker" many times, he incorporated a new strategy to deal with test-taking anxiety: a lot of short, low-risk assessments throughout the semester. Students become more comfortable with taking a test and if a student does not perform well, it allows them to work on how they prepare for assessments without sacrificing a large portion of their grade, he explained.
"I enjoy the diversity at the college," said Shay. "Whether it be age, background or simply where people are in their journey, it's wonderful to facilitate an environment where these students can work together and learn from one another. I feel this diversity helps our students develop skills that go beyond the content itself."
COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.