Photo of Sarah Cordell in a blue blazer.

Sarah Cordell earns Northeastern’s Distinguished Teaching Award

Friday, October 25, 2019

Northeastern Illinois University has selected Associate Professor of Mathematics Sarah Cordell as the 2019 recipient of the Audrey Reynolds Distinguished Teaching Award.

Professor Emerita of Linguistics Audrey Reynolds established the award to be given annually to a tenured member of the Northeastern faculty who best demonstrates distinguished teaching.

“My main goal as a math teacher is to create comfortable, non-intimidating learning spaces within my math classrooms that support culturally diverse students in simultaneously strengthening their participation, identities as math learners, and their access to and appropriation of mathematics,” Cordell said. “I hope the experiences that students have in my classrooms helps them to develop a growth mindset about their math abilities. I hope they leave my class thinking ‘I can be a math person’ or ‘I am a math person.’”

Of this year’s nominees, the Reynolds Award Committee selected two finalists after careful consideration of nomination letters submitted by colleagues and other members of the University community.

The finalists demonstrated evidence of excellence in teaching, and in each of the dossiers the committee found evidence of innovation, high standards and a positive impact on students at the University. After careful review, the committee recommended Cordell as this year’s recipient of the award, which will be formally presented at the December 2019 Commencement Ceremony.

“I think it is important for educators to develop a meaningful definition of equity when reflecting on their teaching practices,” Cordell said. “Four dimensions of equity that I have thought about in relation to my teaching practices include access, achievement, identity and power.”

Cordell said she’s implemented various teaching practices to attempt to create equitable math learning environments and empower her students, including:

  • Establishing positive norms for the math classroom
  • Discussing growth mindset in mathematics after watching videos on the topic
  • Asking students to write reflections about their math experiences
  • Having small peer groups solve challenging math problems and present their solutions to the class
  • Valuing students’ diverse mathematical ideas, strategies and problem-solving approaches
  • Selecting engaging problems that are relevant to students’ interests and lives
  • Drawing on student feedback to improve her teaching throughout the semester

As the Audrey Reynolds Distinguished Teaching Award recipient, Cordell will receive $5,000 and will give a presentation regarding teaching during the Spring 2020 semester.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award among all the talented teachers that work at NEIU,” Cordell said. “NEIU is a unique place to teach because of our amazing students! Their stories and their determination to succeed inspire me to be a better teacher. I have learned so much from them and I love the challenge of improving my classes every semester to better support them in reaching their goals.”