Dr. Anna Stokke has been recognized with a 2021 3M National Teaching Fellowship, Canada’s most prestigious recognition of excellence in teaching and educational leadership at the post-secondary level.
It has been over 20 years since this award was bestowed on a faculty member in Manitoba. UWinnipeg Professor Emerita Dr. Debbie Schnitzer was honoured with a 3M National Teaching Fellowship in 2000.
Dr. Stokke is a national leader in the effort to reimagine how we teach math and support the achievement of mathematical competency in our students.
Dr. Jan Stewart
A mathematician and ambassador for math education, Stokke’s passion for improving the way students at all levels learn math has inspired curriculum improvements at provincial and national levels and led to higher university standards.
“Dr. Stokke is a national leader in the effort to reimagine how we teach math and support the achievement of mathematical competency in our students. Her strategic and deliberate approach to creating positive change — far beyond the walls of her classroom — sets her apart,” said Dr. Jan Stewart, interim provost and vice-president, academic.
Stokke is determined to dispel the myth that some people are good at math while others are not.
“I believe that mathematics can be accessible to everyone,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy – learning math requires a knowledgeable teacher who practices good instructional techniques, students who have mastered the prerequisite skills and, last but not least, a lot of practice.”
Whether mentoring math honours students undertaking complicated research projects or teaching the next generation of K-12 educators, Stokke incorporates techniques like scaffolding to introduce new concepts in incremental steps that allow students to experience success faster.
“Students often struggle in math because they are frequently required to carry out several steps at once when introduced to new concepts, and this overburdens working memory,” she said. “A goal of learning is to move information and problem-solving techniques from working memory into long-term memory, which can hold a large amount of material.”
Her contagious enthusiasm regularly attracts full attendance in labs and lectures. She motivates students with fun math problems that reference pop-culture and helps them see their ability to embrace difficult concepts.
UWinnipeg student Gabriella Borelli says that Stokke’s first year calculus course changed her life.
“If it was not for Dr. Stokke’s excellent teaching and inspiration, I do not believe I would have pursued a career in math,” she said. “She truly is my role model. I strongly believe that if every student had the opportunity to learn through Dr. Stokke’s teaching, there would not only be far more students pursuing a career in mathematics, but there would also be a significant increase in students confident in their mathematical ability.”
Stokke balances community service with a high level of administrative leadership, NSERC-funded research, innovative teaching, and numerous media interviews on math education.
In 2011, she co-founded the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math (WISE Math) advocacy group to improve math education in Canada. The group’s efforts led to significant changes to the Manitoba K-8 curriculum, inspired parents in three other provinces to advocate for change, and led to pre-service K-8 teachers in Manitoba being required to take more than one university math course.
Stokke is co-founder of the non-profit Archimedes Math Schools after-school program which gives university students teaching experience while providing math support to school-aged students. She also worked with colleagues to create an open-source pre-calculus review workshop to help students improve math skills.
Her belief that numeracy and mathematics can and should be accessible to everyone has fueled an innovative change in math education at all levels.
“The University of Winnipeg embraces the idea that excellence in teaching involves innovation, educational leadership, and a creative vision. Dr. Anna Stokke exhibits all three,” said Stewart. “We commend Dr. Stokke on this most prestigious award and we are proud to have her as a member of our faculty.”