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Jessica Bernards, a math instructor at PCC's Rock Creek campus, received the 2021 Teaching Excellence Award.

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND COMMUNITY COLLEGE - Jessica Bernards, a math instructor at Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus.A math instructor at Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus recently received an award and recognition from a national academic association.

Jessica Bernards received the 2021 Teaching Excellence Award from the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, PCC announced May 19.

The award is given in odd-numbered years to instructors "who have made outstanding contributions to teaching mathematics in the first two years of college," PCC officials said. "It recognizes instructional effectiveness, professional involvement, interaction with colleagues, and service to the department."

Bernards will be honored along with other 2021 award recipients at the AMATYC annual conference in Phoenix on Oct. 28.

Receiving the award was a dream of Bernards' since she first started teaching, she said.

"I remember watching the award winners from two years ago and being in awe of the work they've done," she said. "Receiving this award motives me to become a better teacher in the future and inspires me to continue learning and growing in the profession."

Bernards' focus is always on creating "ah-ha" moments for her students, particularly those with the highest levels of anxiety about math, PCC officials say.

"I try to make every effort to connect with each individual student in my classroom to not only help them learn mathematics, but feel a part of a supportive, inclusive learning community where they feel safe and have fun," Bernards said.

To help create that environment, Bernards has developed new teaching methods.

A few years ago, Bernards and her colleague Wendy Fresh developed the "Flipped Plus Model," which flips when students receive instruction and when they try to apply what they've learned on their own.

The model allows students to watch and rewatch recorded lectures from professors on their own time instead during class. When the class meets, Bernards has students tackle harder problems under her guidance by conducting activities and group breakouts related to the material.

During the pandemic, Bernards and Fresh teamed up again.

They solicited input from instructors around the country and then released a series of free remote learning study skills videos that are now used at colleges and high schools across the nation, PCC officials said.

"It's inside these partnerships and collaborations with others that I find the most pride," Bernards said. "My work is only one example of the phenomenal work that our faculty does when they're given the resources they need."

Bernards says she's excited to continue working with and learning from her students, to better address their needs and provide the best instruction possible.

"There is still so much work to be done and I never know where my students are going to take me next," she said. "This is the heart and soul of why I continue to be an educator."

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