Teachers from Years Past Still Inspire Honored Math Professor
Aug. 23, 2013
Dr. Matthew Goeckner says he remains inspired by two high school teachers he had more than 30 years ago when he was growing up in Illinois.
When it comes to teaching, Dr. Matthew Goeckner draws on inspiration from his past in making the learning experience joyful and fulfilling for UT Dallas students.
Goeckner, head of the Mathematical Sciences Department, was rewarded for his efforts by The University of Texas System, which chose him as one of five UT Dallas faculty members to receive the 2013 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.
The annual award honors excellence in the classroom among universities throughout the UT System.
Growing up in the small town of Macomb, Ill., Goeckner said he had stellar high school teachers who encouraged him and sparked his desire to learn more.
“Even though I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, I had teachers devoted to making the most out of the classroom experience,” he said. “It’s been more than 30 years since then, and I still remember their names – Mr. Helms and Mr. Van Blake.”
They taught Goeckner math and physics, respectively, and their impact on his love of these subjects remains something he tries to impart to his students. His father was also a college professor, and when he passed away several years ago, Goeckner noticed that numerous people from all over the world attended the funeral. This was despite the fact that his hometown is very difficult to reach. “I understood from this what it meant to make a difference; I understood that through teaching my father left a legacy. I hope that I can do the same,” he said.
Dr. Matthew Goeckner
TITLE: Professor and head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Plasma-materials interactions, plasma science, material growth kinetics
OTHER ACCOLADES: Earned the UT Dallas 2011-2012 President’s Outstanding Teaching Award
Goeckner earned undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Southern Illinois University, a master’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, and his doctoral degree from the University of Iowa.
Goeckner came to UT Dallas in 1999 after a career in private industry, joining the faculty as an associate professor in electrical engineering. He has since held faculty positions in mechanical engineering and mathematical sciences and is an affiliate professor in the departments of physics, materials science and engineering, and science and mathematics education. In addition, he has served as interim and associate head of mechanical engineering. In 2008, he helped launch a class called “Introduction to Mechanical Engineering” aimed at teaching first-time college students the skills they need to begin learning in the field.
“For freshmen, the world is so huge for them, and although they are very bright, there are a lot of demands on their time, and many may not know how to manage it all,” Goeckner said. “The approach of this class is to help them learn how to be students, how to manage their time and how to study.”
He added that the tools they learn in these introduction classes also help students gain perspective and experience in collaborative environments.
“I want them to not only be able to do the homework, but to learn from their peers and lead,” he said.
He teaches a range of courses from undergraduate math all the way up to graduate-level courses and doctoral advising. The subjects he teaches have included electromagnetism, plasma technology and mathematics.
“I would not be a teacher if I did not enjoy the service aspect of it,” he said. “To me service is all about leaving the world a better place than I found it.”
Even after more than a decade in the profession, Goeckner said he still enjoys what he calls the “magic” of watching a student understand something for the first time.
“You can see it in their eyes,” Goeckner said. “It’s something that never gets old.”