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Professor Hollylynne Lee Receives 2020 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching

NC State College of Education Professor Hollylynne Lee

Hollylynne Lee, Ph.D., a professor of mathematics and statistics education at the NC State College of Education and senior faculty fellow at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, has been selected as a recipient of the 2020 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

The Awards for Excellence in Teaching, presented annually to one faculty member at each of the 16 public universities in the UNC System and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, were established in 1993 to recognize, reward and support good teaching.

“I was so incredibly happy, humbled and honored when I learned I had been selected for this award. There are many amazing and dedicated faculty at NC State that contribute to excellence in undergraduate teaching and I am really proud to be one of them,” Lee said. “The support and collaborative efforts that happen at NC State to focus on providing world-class education are just awesome.”

Lee initially pursued a career in education because of her love of mathematics and a desire to inspire others to do more with math. She fell in love with teaching, particularly when she was able to develop personal connections with students and find ways to make math fun. After leading professional development workshops for teachers and supervising pre-service teachers during her master’s program, she knew that becoming a mathematics teacher educator and researcher would be the next step in her career.

“I felt I could reach more students if I could help prepare more teachers,” Lee said. “Coming to NC State in 2000 was a very purposeful choice to situate my work in a land-grant institution where I could engage in scholarship, teaching and outreach that were all aimed at contributing to our public education system.”

During that first semester as a faculty member at NC State, Lee encountered a senior in the College of Education whom she had taught when he was an eighth grade algebra student in Dare County. He told her that she was an inspiration behind his decision to become a mathematics teacher.

In addition to that interaction, Lee said some of her stand-out moments during the past two decades include redesigning and co-teaching the Teaching Mathematics with Technology course (EMS 480) with her colleague Karen Hollebrands, Ph.D., using funding from the National Science Foundation to help over 250 faculty prepare future educators to teach math using advanced technology tools, and designing and launching her first massive open online course for educators (MOOC-Ed) through the Friday Institute during the 2014-15 academic year.

Lee has since helped to design and facilitate three free MOOC-Ed courses that have served more than 7,000 educators, including over 1,360 who enrolled in the Teaching Mathematics with Technology MOOC-Ed when it opened in March to help teachers learn to teach math online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Learning how to design a learning environment that would engage thousands from a distance was way out of my comfort zone of teaching classes of 15 to 30 students in the College of Education,” Lee said. “Everything I learned through designing MOOC-Eds I applied to help our mathematics education program transition its courses, and eventually our master’s program and new certificate program, to an online format.”

Above all, Lee said her favorite moments as an educator come when she watches her students succeed, whether that be through presenting projects they are proud of, watching student-teachers and graduates impact the lives of students or seeing former students return to the College of Education to earn a graduate degree.

“I love when my students earn honors and awards for their hard work and when Ph.D. graduates go on to be faculty at other institutions and have great impact on students’ learning at their own institutions,” she said.

This includes her former student, Peter Eley, Ph.D., a graduate of the Mathematics Education doctoral program at the College of Education and the Fayetteville State University recipient of the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.