Connie Hill, adjunct instructor of mathematics in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, was named the 2016 Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award recipient during SPCS Night, the school’s annual awards and recognition ceremony. She delivered brief remarks to the graduates at the School’s Commencement Exercises on May 7, 2016.
Hill’s “day job” (differentiated from her “night role” of adjunct professor), her daily full-time profession, is secondary mathematics teacher and department chair at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, where she has worked since 1999. But it was not always so.
Hill graduated with a business degree in marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University and entered the corporate world as a merchandizing analyst and small electronics specialists at Circuit City’s corporate headquarters in Richmond. However, she quickly realized that she wasn’t fulfilled in her corporate role. As she shared during her Commencement remarks, “I realized I wasn’t really living my dream or fulfilling my purpose professionally.”
She quit her job, started running a day care full time out of her family home, and went back to school full time at night to earn a Master of Teaching in secondary education so she could become a math teacher.
Hill knows the experience of students in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies because she’s lived their experience. Or, as she stated it in her address, “Just like you, my family and I know what it takes to be a continuing education student.”
That deep, personal understanding of students’ experiences makes a difference. The Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award recipient is nominated by current SPCS students. Their nominations reflect students’ appreciation for this understanding. One student wrote that Hill “helped me get over my fear of math.” Another shared that she “truly cares for her students and their success in her class.” As undergraduate students returning to school and taking the required Mathematics classes for our bachelor’s degrees, math class can be a difficult and frightening experience. Hill made math approachable to her students.
Hill reminded graduating students that “making a change in the world doesn’t have to come from an enormous gesture.” Using her own experience as an example, she explains in part why she became a math teacher — to reduce fear of math among future generations.
“In some small way,” she reflected, “I changed a person’s view of mathematics, both a difficult yet beautiful discipline. Hopefully, those people spread a little less dread to the next generation.”
She also reminded graduating students that their model of “never giving up on your goals and dreams” by completing a University of Richmond degree is a profound and meaningful influence on others: “In some way, your hard work, to this point, has impacted someone: yourself, a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend.”
Hill closed her remarks by thanking SPCS students for the award and for “giving me the opportunity to realize yet another dream.” Then she encouraged students, like her, to “turn back around and help the next one in line.”