Stephanie Salomone wins Outstanding Educator Award for Higher Education
Five years ago, Associate Math Professor Stephanie Salomone spent the majority of spring semester sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms and the emergency room,“just thinking.”
Salomone is the mother of three young boys, and in 2014, her middle son had three major seizures. In the time she spent waiting for her son to recover, she realized that her work in mathematical research and creating theories was no longer fulfilling, and she wanted to be able to turn her attention to helping others like her son was helped through his illness.
From that year on, she started devoting her time to creating better math and science teachers, helping UP’s faculty understand how students could learn better and helping the Portland community better use resources for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
Salomone was recently awarded the from the Oregon Academy of Science for her work in educating new math and sciences teachers and her efforts to introduce more young people, especially women, into the STEM community. Her commitment to student learning and continuous work helping teachers led to her success. Salomone will be honored at Linfield College on Feb. 23 during an awards presentation.
Salomone said she feels honored about receiving this award, but believes that it’s not about winning.
“I care more about helping students figure out what they love, and then helping them find ways to do that,” Salomone said. “I never thought I would land at a place that values teaching as much as UP does. I’m really lucky, I get to do what I love every day. That’s so rare.”
Salomone feels very connected to her students at UP and tries to instill in her students the foundation of a Holy Cross education. She said she believes that “every student is a whole person” and deserves respect. Salomone also said good teaching should mean having good relationships with your students.
Junior Ruthie Olsen said Salomone has a “unique ability to bring people into her 'circle' through her contagious love of learning and teaching.” She said Salomone is someone who “clearly cares deeply” about her students.
Salomone has been teaching mathematics at UP since 2005, and in 2012 she became the Principal Investigator of the of 1.2 million dollars that helps STEM students and STEM professionals who want to become teachers in high-need schools.
“We need great teachers, and we need great scientists who become teachers,” Salomone said.
Her training is in mathematics, but the Noyce Grant was the first event that exposed her to STEM outreach. Salomone is very passionate about STEM outreach, as she aims to help young people everywhere figure out what they themselves are passionate about, regardless of gender.
“I happen to be a woman who is a mathematician,” Salomone said. “But I’d rather just be called a mathematician, the ‘woman’ doesn’t have to be part of it.
When Salomone was working on her degree at the University of Michigan, she said tried to declare a math honors major. But she said her male advisor told her she simply wasn’t serious enough about math.
She said after talking to her female peers, she learned her advisor said that to every female student who wanted to major in honors math.
But she did it anyway, and sat in the department chair’s office and refused to leave until he signed the paperwork.
“I don’t like being told ‘you can’t do this,’” Salomone said.
This determination to major in honors math came from Salomone’s long held desire to become a math teacher. She said she had always been good at math, and knew from a young age she wanted to teach it.
Salomone earned her Ph.D in math from UCLA in 2004 and said she sent out over 152 applications to every university that was hiring a math professor at the time.
“UP was actually the first college that called,” Salomone said. “And I knew that was the place I wanted to be. There’s something about this place.”
Milo, Salomone’s 10-year-old son, sometimes refers to his mom as “a doctor who cannot help people,” referring to how she doesn’t heal people like a medical doctor can. But Salomone said she’s glad that she’s 43 years old, because she has ample time to prove her son wrong by helping students everywhere.
“Is there a way I can provide opportunities for all kids — and then all students at all levels that need the best science, math and engineering teachers they can get?” Salomone said she asks herself.
In her future work, Salomone hopes to continue to help students figure out who they are and what they love to do, whatever that may be.
“I don’t think there’s any reason why an 18 or 22-year-old should know what a successful life looks like,” Salomone said. “I want students to explore their interests, passions, and leave room for pieces (of themselves) that don’t exist yet.”