5 Times Silver Circle Award Winner!
(all quotes below are from UIC News. Click on the year to see the original articles.)
In 1969, 22-year-old Calvin Kafka came to UIC to study graduate- level math with the goal of becoming a computer scientist. That dream changed the day he agreed to become a teaching assistant in the math department. More than two decades later, Kafka is still at UIC, still enjoying his experiences as a teacher.
"These are students who many times didn't have the opportunity" to build up a strong foundation in mathematics, he said. "This is their chance and I want it to work out for them. For many, this is their last chance."
QUALITIES OF A GOOD TEACHER: Always be well-prepared for a lecture; really care about the students and their success; always be available to help them. "Teaching is my life. I like to see students have success, so I give them my all." MEASURING SUCCESS: At home he has a shoebox filled with letters and cards with comments like this from a former student: "I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was because of you that I decided to become a math teacher.... You were the biggest influence in my life that led me to this career decision. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that you do make a difference in your students' lives."
MENTOR: Dave Foulser, a UIC math professor who's retiring this year. Kafka was a T.A. for Foulser in 1969. "He is a great mathematician and a great teacher and a great person. Working for him really changed my life. I could see how much he cared and how much that affected the students. When I saw that first hand, it really made me want to teach and to follow his example."
"I enjoy what I'm doing so much that I think students pick up on that," said Calvin Kafka of his fourth Silver Circle Award.
Part of his success, Kafka said, lies in giving students clear guidelines for his courses. He gives plenty of pop quizzes and lots of homework problems; if they keep up, he tells them, they'll fare well.
Math is a difficult subject to teach, especially to students fraught with "math anxiety," but Kafka does his best to make it entertaining.
He enjoys particularly pulling examples from history to show students how mathematical concepts enabled the ancients to learn more about the universe.
When it comes to the Silver Circle Award, Cal Kafka is on a roll. This is his fifth award, but he's still thrilled by the honor.
"It's really nice to know that voting seniors remember me from classes they took probably in their freshman year," says Kafka. "For the most part, I use methods that I have found work for the largest number of students," he says.
"I prepare my lectures so that I begin looking at a concept by way of easy-to-understand examples, then work up to examples that are difficult."
"I especially like teaching intermediate algebra, because many of the students have had bad experiences taking math courses in the past. It is exciting to see them gain confidence in their ability."