Celebrating Great Teaching

May 29, 2023

Cherry lecture

Department of Curriculum & Instruction Hosts Baylor Cherry Award Winner

Dr. Hollylynne Lee, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Education at North Carolina State University, is the 2022 recipient of the prestigious national Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, awarded biennially by Baylor University to recognize exemplary teaching by university faculty. As the recipient, Dr. Lee has spent the spring semester of 2023 in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and is teaching two courses for undergraduate education majors — “Critical Issues in Mathematics Education” and “Data and Chance.”

Dr. Hollylynne Lee
Dr. Hollylynne Lee

The data course is offered through the Department of Mathematics, and at the request of faculty, Lee is redesigning that course’s content — a challenge she described as intellectually invigorating. She will also take the course back to NC State. Lee’s scholarship and teaching expertise focus on the learning and teaching of probability, statistics, and data science in grades 4-12 and early college-level courses.

“A lot of my research is about how students and teachers think about data and statistics,” she said. “I’m trying to help teachers innovate in the classroom and use tools that allow them to think about bigger data sets. Of course, in kindergarten through second grade, students won’t use large data sets, but there are methods — such as measurement, categorization, and data displays — for developing early thinking skills with data.

In addition to the courses, Lee taught Baylor seniors how to teach using some of these methods in a full-day workshop. With elementary education majors, Lee explored statistics activities using data cards representing teenagers’ answers to questions about their use of social media, watching tv, reading books, and their age. They learned about sorting data and the nuances of filtering and evaluating data for making predictions. Secondary education students explored graphs used in news articles about trends in educational achievement, looking for gaps correlated to gender and socioeconomics of a school district. These future teachers had to make sense of multivariable representations and discuss how to help students become data literate through using graphs from media across different subject areas.

“I hope to teach them to be skeptics,” Lee said. “It’s a key habit of mind, because we must understand the context of any data.”

Lee pointed out that statistics, contrary to popular belief, does not provide definitive answers. “In statistics, if you use good designs and get good data, that helps you to be more certain, but in the end, it just points to a tendency and plausibility, not necessarily causality.”

Dr. Trena Wilkerson, professor of mathematics education and interim chair of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, said, “Dr. Lee is a renowned expert in mathematics and statistics education, and it has been an enriching semester for both students and faculty. One of the powerful impacts is that, while she is teaching content, she is also modeling exemplary teaching strategies. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with the Mathematics Department, as well.”

Lee has given several campuswide presentations, including the Cherry Award Ceremony in February and the Cherry Award Teaching Summit for faculty in April, a seminar co-sponsored by Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning. Beyond campus, she was the keynote speaker for the Central Texas Council for Teachers of Mathematics conference and led a seminar for mathematics teachers from across Texas Education Service Center Region 12, which includes 77 school districts and 10 charter schools in 12 counties.

Sharing Knowledge

Dr. Hollylynne Lee in a Classroom

Lee’s program of research has led her to develop several free online learning tools. “Earlier in my career, it was typical to develop resources through grant-funded work and disseminate it through a publisher, so students had to buy a book and CD,” she said. “As it became easier to build web portals, I decided to move in this direction to offer it for free, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), who was funding some of my work, agreed.” Her latest online tool has an artificial intelligence (AI) aspect to it.

Lee said she is enjoying her time at Baylor and living within walking distance of everything on campus, attending Baylor Theatre productions, sporting events, Diadeloso, and even All University Sing. She has enjoyed games of pickup sand volleyball with students, working out at the SLC, and kayaking at the marina.

While Lee was initially reluctant to be nominated for the Cherry Award and consider spending a semester away from family, she is glad she did and said her time at Baylor has reignited her passion on all fronts. She pointed out that “going out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.”
Lee said, “I see this as the beginning of a journey, and not that I was just plopped down here for a semester. I want to continue working with my Baylor colleagues in future collaborations.”

Cherry Award Prestige

The Cherry Award is the nation’s largest teaching award, designed to honor great teachers, stimulate discussion about the value of teaching, and encourage institutions to appreciate their most talented teachers. Cherry Award recipients receive $250,000, and an additional $25,000 goes to their department at their home institution. Baylor School of Education has hosted one previous Cherry recipient, Dr. Mario Benitez — a professor of bilingual-bicultural studies at the University of Texas, in 1997 — and a finalist in 2020— Dr. Nancy Dana, education professor at the University
of Florida.

Lee earned her BS in secondary mathematics education from The Pennsylvania State University, her MAEd in secondary education-mathematics from William & Mary, and her PhD in mathematics education from University of Virginia. Prior to working at the university level, she served as a K-12 teacher. She has won numerous college teaching awards and secured millions in external grant funding; her publications include more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceeding papers; four co-authored books; and a co-edited book.