Tyler J. Jarvis, a professor in the BYU Department of Mathematics, received the Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award at this year’s Annual University Conference.
An outstanding professor of mathematics, Jarvis holds high expectations for his students, cares deeply for them, and exudes enthusiasm.
“I love working with students. I love seeing the light go on in people’s eyes. I love seeing them get excited about what they’re doing. I love it when they get great jobs. All these things make me happy.”
Jarvis is also the recipient of a 2016 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award, also known as the “Hall of Fame” award for math professors, from the Mathematical Association of America. This award is given to only three people in the nation each year and recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching.
Jarvis feels his variety of experiences, like being a visiting scholar in places like Sweden and Germany, has made him a better teacher.
“It’s always really helpful to see what other people are doing, how other people are teaching and explaining things, what’s working for them, [and] what’s not working for them,” he said.
In addition to having been a visiting scholar, he coaches cross-country at Timpview High School, which he feels helps him be a better professor.
For Jarvis, the similarity between being a good coach and a good math teacher involves finding a spot where his students are just outside their comfort zone but not challenged so much that they “get discouraged and give up.”
These and other experiences have taught Jarvis some keys to successful teaching.
“Most important is that you have to care about your students and want to see them succeed and be willing to invest in that.”
Aside from that, Jarvis feels it’s crucial to let the students struggle a little.
“I think it’s also extremely important to remember that when they’re struggling or things are hard, that’s not a sign of failure,” he said.
Ultimately, he believes when teachers help students by doing the work for them, “that’s not helping, that’s un-doing everything they were just working for.”
While teachers must do well at helping their students, Jarvis believes it is imperative the student does the work and understands the concept for him or herself.
“Certain things have to be done by the student, and they’re going to struggle, and our job is to encourage them and give them guidance but not to actually do the work for them.”
Jarvis works hard to ensure his students “learn a lot and like it too.” Both of those goals are important to him.
“I think that there are two completely independent, distinct things that teachers need to think about: How much are students learning, and how much did they like it? If I succeed at either one of these without the other, then I’ve failed.”
With this recognition, Jarvis is clearly successful at both teaching his students difficult concepts and helping them enjoy the subject matter.
“I’m very flattered to get the award. There are lots of great teachers at BYU, and it is a real blessing to work here among them.”