Western professor wins “Educator of the Year”

IndyMo honors Dr. Leanne Merrill during  the 56th year of community awards

Sydney Carpenter | News Editor

For a little more than half a century, the cities of Monmouth and Independence have celebrated community members through their “Community Awards.”

This year, Western’s own mathematics professor Dr. Leanne Merrill was honored as co-honoree in the “Educator of the Year” category. A newer hire at Western, Merrill has been teaching full time for less than four years, and taught part time at University of Oregon while completing her master’s degree.

“I feel very lucky to have been recognized at such an early stage in my career — I don’t even have tenure yet,” said Merrill. “I love my job because I am so grateful that I get to work with (Western) students. Every single day I am energized and inspired by (Western) students’ work ethic, humility, bravery and accomplishments.”

Merrill goes on to say how rewarding it is for her department to receive such a high achievement.

“Mathematics gets a bad rap a lot of the time,” said Merrill. “But I strongly believe that everyone can be a successful practitioner of mathematics, and that mathematical empowerment is a human right.

As an educator, Merrill says she has struggled with imposter syndrome, particularly being a woman in science, technology, engineering and math. Being given the award made Merrill feel empowered, and that her teaching style is resonating with students while also making a difference in their lives.

“Teaching is a great but challenging career because there is no one right way to do it — what works well is depending upon the teacher, the students and the relationships that are formed in the classrooms,” said Merrill. “As a teacher, I believe it is my duty to meet students where they are. Teaching is so dependent upon the individuals involved that it’s always possible to rework ideas or discover new fun ways of doing things.”

Contact the author at scarpenter18@mail.wou.edu

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