Mathematics Professor at Florida Gateway College in Lake City, FL. When I began attending Stockton in 1983 I enrolled as a Marine Biology major. I had vision of becoming a research scientist who studied dolphins. As part of my degree program I had to take classes in mathematics and physics. After surviving my first semester, I was lamenting how I really did not have much spending money and no car to get off campus when a friend told me about student jobs on campus. The thing was you had to find an opening. Asking all about I stumbled on a job in the physics lab.
At the time, the lab had just gotten new computers and there were many new labs to set up each week. It was also during this semester I met the professor who would help me change paths in life. When Dr. Yitzhak Sharon walked into class the first day that semester his passion for teaching and physics was radiant. I had never had a professor anything like him before. He was so clever at making himself look silly in front of the class that you did not even realize how much you were learning at the same time. He put on demonstrations throughout the class and always seemed uncoordinated – like when he walked into the path of the concrete block pendulum hanging from the ceiling of the classroom. We all remembered what simple harmonic motion was when leaving the class. I also remember how surprised I was when I first learned he was also a theoretical nuclear research physicist at Princeton University. He was brilliant yet he chose to teach lower level physics classes and excelled highly at it.
When I started my sophomore year, once again working as a physics lab aid, Yitzhak, as he fondly called, asked me if I would consider becoming his student grader in addition to working in the Physics Lab. I was completely taken aback as I had no experience. He assured me he would teach me and I agreed. I felt really honored at the time and learned so much grading homework assignments. It was at the end of that semester when I realized that marine biology was not something I excelled at or liked as much as I thought I would. At the same time, I was acing the third of the calculus classes I had taken. After much soul-searching and discussion with Yitzhak and my mathematics professors, I decided to switch to pursue a mathematics degree.
When I started my junior year, Yitzhak again asked me to be his grader but asked if instead of working in the Physics Lab, he’d like to recommend me as a tutor at Stockton’s Math and Science Skills Center. I did not envision myself being a good tutor but he encouraged me to try. I was amazed that he was right once again. Tutoring was such a rewarding experience! I continued to work as both his grader and as a tutor for the rest of my tenure at Stockton.
In my senior year, the realization of being a Mathematics major and not having a real idea what job I might pursue began worrying me. Yitzhak was there for me once again! He asked if I had ever thought of going to graduate school. Having barely afforded my time at Stockton with scholarships and loans, I had never considered it a viable option. He explained how you could go to graduate school on an assistantship and helped me fill out applications. I was surprised when several schools wanted me to visit and then did offer the assistantships.
It was also this semester when Yitzhak first told me how good a teacher he thought I’d be. I had just finished a presentation on a senior project I had done. I had never seen myself in that light before but was honored he thought so highly of me. As it turns out, my assistantship at the University of Arizona changed from a research to a teaching one when I arrived. I discovered that I loved teaching and after getting my M.A. in Mathematics went on to teach at a two-year college in Florida. While there, I needed to take further graduate classes for promotions so went on to complete a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Mathematic Education from the University of South Florida.
If it were not for Dr. Yitzhak Sharon, my professor, mentor, and friend, I would never be where I am today. He encouraged me to always do my best and helped me gain confidence I was lacking before I’d met him. His love for teaching has continued to be an inspiration for me. He taught me many skills that I still use today, as a professor myself. We have corresponded on and off over the years. I have such fond memories of him and my time at Stockton. I am sure many others share my sentiment!