Melissa (Allen) McAninch
Assistant Professor of Education at Central College
Bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 2005
MAE degree from Truman in 2007
MA in Psychological and Quantitative Foundations (Educational Measurement) from the University of Iowa in 2012
PhD in Teaching and Learning (Mathematics Education) from the University of Iowa in 2015
I have always loved solving problems and did well in my high school mathematics classes. I couldn’t imagine a semester of school without taking a math class, so I decided to become a math major. (I actually started at Truman as a business major, then declared a business/math double major for two semesters with an interest in actuarial science but eventually dropped the business major to pursue mathematics education instead).
I am an assistant professor of education in my third year teaching at Central College in Pella, IA. After receiving my MAE I taught middle and high school mathematics for 4 years in two different schools. I had always been interested in pursuing further education, and I learned about mathematics education PhD programs in my senior seminar class at Truman. The idea stuck with me, and I applied to graduate schools in 2010. I went through my doctorate coursework at the University of Iowa in 3 years, then accepted an instructor position at Central College after finishing my comprehensive exams but before finishing my dissertation. I completed my dissertation in my first two years working for Central.
I teach some general education courses at Central, but my specialty areas are in assessment and mathematics education. I teach Educational Psychology, Learning and Assessment, Secondary General Methods, Secondary Math Methods, Middle School Methods, Secondary Student Teaching Seminar, and I am working to design a topics course in STEM education for next year. I also occasionally teach the Elementary Mathematics Methods if needed.
Other than teaching at Central, I’m currently working with funds from an MSP grant project where I meet with middle school teachers for professional development training two weeks each summer and once per month during the school year. It reminds me of the Gecko Math summer institute I attended as a classroom teacher with Dr. Grow years ago!
How I use math in my job:
I had to use everything I learned at Truman to succeed in my graduate mathematics courses at the University of Iowa, and now I keep my advanced knowledge fresh by talking with my math education majors here at Central. I use math every day, but in different ways than I originally thought I would! As a teacher of future teachers I need to know more than just how to break mathematics concepts down and solve problems using various strategies. It even goes beyond what I learned in my MAE coursework to be able to teach middle and high school students these mathematical skills. I’ve bumped up the challenge another level to be able to teach these specialized skills (in mathematics education lingo we call this “mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT)”) as transparently and concretely as I can for my pre-service teachers who need to be able to make mathematics accessible for all of their students. I also use a lot of mathematics and statistics knowledge to answer questions related to classroom assessment and university-wide assessment and in writing journal articles.
Advice for students getting ready to hit the job market or apply to graduate school:
Remember that you are very marketable as a math major and don’t have to “settle” for the first job that comes your way. When you find your passion, be very clear about your purpose and in marketing yourself for that purpose to employers. It helps to do some mock interviews and to research your employers ahead of the interview. Truman prepares you very well for graduate school, so definitely be aware of those opportunities too, and be confident in the background knowledge you bring to these programs.