Longtime Mathematics Educator Lauded
By Jack McDonough
Prof. Regina M. Panasuk of the Graduate School of Education, acclaimed by fellow faculty members and students alike for her outstanding service to UMass Lowell for nearly two decades, has been awarded the distinguished title of University Professor.
In his letter nominating Prof. Panasuk for this honor, Prof. Jay Simmons, the faculty chair, said she is “an inspiration to her colleagues and a model of excellent teaching, valuable research and grant writing, and service to both the University and the region.”
Prof. Anita Greenwood, interim dean of the Graduate School of Education, writing in support of the nomination, described Panasuk as “an exceptional professor . . . who works harder than could be reasonably expected of any individual because she loves her career and is dedicated to improving the quality of mathematics education for all.”
The appointment carries with it a stipend of $10,000, release from teaching one class each semester and the commitment to deliver a University Professor lecture, which, in this case, will take place during the spring 2012 semester. The three-year appointment, which runs through August of 2014, is the highest distinction bestowed on a UMass Lowell faculty member. Prof. Panasuk joins fellow University professors: Chair of the Physics and Applied Physics Department Robert Giles (2011-13); biology Prof. Susan Braunhut (2008-11); and work environment Prof. Kenneth Geiser (2009-12) in holding this recognition.
Prof. Simmons notes that during her 18 years at Lowell, Prof. Panasuk has been named the outstanding teacher in the GSE twice by her teaching colleagues and once by the Graduate Student Organization. He also points out that she is a “prolific” grant writer, bringing the University more than $700,000 in grant money as a principal investigator and nearly $400,000 as a co-PI, “no mean feats in education where grant money is scarce.”
Prof. Panasuk’s skill as a teacher has elicited high praise from students, one of whom called her a “brilliant, sensitive, master teacher.”
A native of Russia, Prof. Panasuk holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, a master’s degree in mathematics and mathematics education and a doctorate in mathematics education from the Leningrad Institute of Adult Education of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. Among many other honors, she was named “Distinguished Teacher of the Russian Federation,” the highest national teaching award given by the Ministry of Education.
But for Prof. Panasuk, it’s much simpler than all that.
“I consider myself exceedingly lucky being able to do what I like and enjoy,” she says.
And if there is any question about her correct title, she is adamant that it is Professor of Mathematics Education.
“That is exactly who I am professionally. Mathematics is my subject and education is my professional activity. It is not one or the other. Those two concepts are inseparable to me.”
She credits her love of mathematics to her father, her teachers and “the whole culture I was born into.”
But she adds, “I am not a mathematician. I am a teacher of mathematics. I like helping those who learn the subject. And I like helping teachers learn how to teach math to kids, how to make people become fascinated with math, how to make people enjoy the process of learning.”
Despite her success in the field of mathematics, her skills and ability did not necessarily come easily.
“I don’t think I do things because they are easy but rather because they require effort to reduce my ignorance,” she says. “I’m a ‘professional learner.’ ”
When not teaching, mentoring or writing grant proposals, Prof. Panasuk enjoys “uninterrupted thinking” while walking four to six miles a day. She also paints, studies art and enjoys classical music, ballet and opera.
“And, of course, a good joke.”