Professor Susan Barton retires after more than three decades of helping students succeed in learning math


Courtesy of BYUH University Communications

Friends and colleagues of BYU-Hawaii math professor Susan Barton gathered on the top floor of the new Science Building on the afternoon of June 21 to honor her and the 36 years she taught at the university. .

Wearing farewell leis piled up to his chin, Barton took the time to talk to each person as those in attendance enjoyed an assortment of potluck food and treats, and people gathered in groups to take selfies with her.

Barton is retiring this summer and has said she will be heading to Utah first to visit family, but she hasn’t decided exactly where she will settle. Barton said that for the first time in more than three decades, she would be taking summer vacation but not returning to class in the fall. “It hasn’t really hit me yet,” she said, but added that she thinks when fall arrives and the weather starts to cool down, the reality of retirement will set in.

Wearing a T-shirt at her retirement party that said math teachers always have problems, Barton joked that when she retires, she won’t have any more problems.

Discovered his passion for teaching at an early age

Barton shared in a Ke Alaka’i post from 2020, when she was in fourth grade, she knew she had a knack for teaching because she started helping other students with their math. She said that simple experience of teaching other students through her love of math was the first time she remembered having a passion for teaching.

She says math comes naturally to her, and while math can be intimidating to some, she has worked to help students find encouragement to improve by turning her classrooms into a breeding ground for questions, networking and better understanding.

“If you keep working in math and keep working with algebra and learning what you can do with calculus and higher level math, I think most people who are in college can do it. on some level,” she said in the 2020 article. Barton said one of her core personal beliefs is that students need to realize they can be good at math from an early age. to break the negative stigma around math.

One of his former students at BYUH, Scott Hyde, who is now a professor in the university’s math and computer science department, said in the same article that Barton’s belief that anyone can successfully learn the mathematics has manifested itself in its courses by emphasizing true internalization. the information presented.

“She encouraged the students to succeed by making sure they didn’t just ‘get by’. She wouldn’t release us, and she made sure you did your job. Every rating I got from her, I knew I deserved because she would never give a higher rating than you earned.

Every student can learn to do math

Barton said committing time and labor can have a huge impact on a student’s effectiveness. She shared the story of a student who was told that growing up he would never do well in math. But when he came to BYUH, Barton said, with the right mentors, the student was able to thrive and develop his math skills.

“You have to decide like a marathon runner,” she said in the article. “When they hit the wall, do they just stop or push through? In mathematics, you have to go through it.

“Even when you hit the wall, you’ll realize you can do it. I think too often we are quite young when we decide we can’t do math. I think a lot of it is that you don’t have a good teacher who really feels comfortable with the math itself.

She included this advice for students in a May 2021 Ke Alaka’i article featuring “Words of the Wise” from several BYUH professors: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can and must do today. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring in terms of what you need to do or unexpected challenges that could monopolize your planned study time.

Unique spirit at BYUH

Reflecting on her years at BYUH in the 2020 article, Barton said she enjoyed having smaller class sizes so she could better connect with her students. She added that the main reason it was able to work is because of the unique presence of spirit and priesthood at BYUH.

“What made me stay was because of the blessings of the priesthood. I said I’ll stay here as long as the Lord wants me here. I had a chance [to leave]…but I feel like I have to stay here as long as the Lord wants… In the end, if you do what He wants you to do, the Lord will help things work out. arrange for you.

In her 2005 BYUH devotional, she spoke of her experience of obtaining a priesthood blessing while deciding whether to accept the offer to teach here. After her own intensive study, prayer, and meditation, she made the decision to come and teach at Laie, but said she still felt she should receive a priesthood blessing.

She shared in her devotional talk, “The blessing turned out to be an incredible testimony-building experience… The intensity of the spirit was almost overwhelming. I felt an immense sense of peace and the feelings of joy defy description,” she said. “Throughout the day there were strong genuine feelings of love and goodwill for everyone I met, or even passed by… I had a minute glimpse of the magnitude of the God’s love for each one of us.”

McKay Lecture Focused on Uncovering the Truth

While at BYUH, Barton was also selected as one of David O. McKay’s Distinguished Lecturers. A faculty committee asks a faculty member to do research for the year leading up to their McKay lecture, then present what they’ve discovered at a special university-wide event during the Annual BYUH Founders Week.

Barton’s lecture focused on the relationship between humanity’s knowledge and truth, explaining how truth, God, man, and mathematics all have overlapping knowledge. Barton said that all real truth can be contained in a great whole. She said people often feel that secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge do not coincide. “Where there are conflicting ideas,” Barton said, “there has to be real truth…We can’t just ignore the conflicts and realities around us.”

By uncovering the confusion and discovering the connection between the revealed truth of God and the truth that people can find through secular knowledge, they can find all the truth and see the big picture by putting the pieces of the puzzle together, a Barton said.

She illustrated her point during the conference using examples found in the scriptures. One scripture she quoted was Moses 1:33; where the Lord says, “I have created worlds without number.”

Several years ago, she said, astronomers only knew about eight other planets outside our solar system, but they now estimated there were about 2 septillion planets in just one part of our solar system. the universe. In just a few years, she says, mankind was able to prove the truth of the Lord’s words in Moses.

Barton said: “If there are answers we seek but cannot find, there must be other truths we must learn first… The important thing is that we keep looking. to learn the truth.”

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