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KC’s McKenna receives state teaching award

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:23 a.m. CDT
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Neal McKenna was named the recipient of the Illinois Mathematics Association of Community Colleges Award for Excellence in Teaching at the organization’s annual statewide conference held in April. McKenna will represent Illinois as the state nominee for the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges Teaching Excellence Award which will be announced in the spring of 2015.

Neal McKenna, Kishwaukee College mathematics instructor, received the Illinois Mathematics Association of Community Colleges Award for Excellence in Teaching.

McKenna’s award was announced at the IMACC Conference Banquet held April 4 at Allerton Park in Monticello, Illinois.

“I was delighted to find out I had been nominated and won,” McKenna said in a news release. “But it was also kind of humbling – there are so many excellent mathematics instructors at community colleges in Illinois who are equally deserving of this award.”

Each community college in Illinois can nominate one instructor who epitomizes excellence in the classroom, with one from that group of nominees selected to receive the Award of Excellence for the entire state. As the recipient of the state honor, McKenna will represent Illinois as the state nominee for the prestigious American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges Teaching Excellence Award. The national award will be announced in the spring of 2015.

McKenna began teaching at Kishwaukee College as an adjunct in 1976 and joined the faculty full-time in 1982. Becoming interested in teaching and learning, he began working on his doctorate in education in 1986 at Northern Illinois University, completing the degree in 1992.

Besides teaching at Kishwaukee College, in the last several years, he has partnered with Thomas Smith at NIU in a series of statistics based research projects. McKenna was unable to attend the IMACC Banquet to receive his Award for Excellence in Teaching because he was presenting a research paper with Smith in Philadelphia at the American Educational Research Association Conference that weekend.

Kishwaukee College Mathematics Department head, Matt Read, who had nominated McKenna for the award, accepted the award for him at the ceremony.

As an instructor at Kishwaukee College, McKenna has taught nearly every mathematics and statistics course offered at the college. 

“My favorite class is always the one I am teaching,” he said in the release. “Every class presents its own set of challenges. When I am teaching developmental or foundational level mathematics, I am challenged as a teacher because the students often don’t think they can do math. When I teach an upper level class like Calculus III or Differential Equations, my mathematical abilities are challenged.”

The IMACC Award for Excellence in Teaching is referred to as an “annual award,” but has only been awarded five times since 2004. McKenna’s Award is the first to be given since 2010, when his Kishwaukee College colleague, Bob Hickey, was the recipient.

“Since 2004, two of the five awards given for Excellence in Teaching have been awarded to Kishwaukee College math instructors,” McKenna said in the release. “That says something, I think, about the quality of our faculty!”

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