Humans of PCC, an Interview with Jeff Lacks
Humans of PCC: Jeff Lacks
Jeff Lacks has been teaching at PCC since 2003. He got his undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin and went to graduate school at University of Oregon and University of California at Davis. He fell in love with teaching while he taught classes as a graduate student at U of O to pay for his tuition and has never looked back.
KSR: What do you love about teaching math?
JL: So many things! I love the fact that I am getting paid to serve my community. My students are the most amazing people and if I can help them in any way to accomplish their goals then I think I am making Portland a little bit better of a city to live in. I also love the fact that teaching is never boring. It is a constant challenge and I can keep trying new things and hopefully become a better teacher.
KSR: Why do you think some people fear math?
JL: I think it probably comes from the abstract nature of it. Mathematics is often taught in a way that makes it hard to understand it’s beauty. I find that when people can connect the math to things going on in their lives then it doesn’t seem nearly as frightening.
KSR: What do you hope students take away from your courses?
JL: Obviously I want them to get the credits for the class and be one step closer to getting their degree. I want them as prepared as possible for their future coursework. I hope they get a better appreciation for why math is important. I want people to develop problem solving skills and get better at working with other people. I also want to help people become better citizens. Politicians and corporations today try to take advantage of our ignorance and our only hope to combat that is education.
KSR: What do you think makes a great math teacher?
JL: First and foremost you need a mastery of the material. Then you have to genuinely care for your students’ success – in your class and beyond. You need to be able to get and keep everyone’s attention, which takes a magnetic personality. Mostly, it’s about constantly trying to get better – you try new things and sometimes they work and become part of your practice and sometimes they don’t.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of taking one of Jeff Lacks’ math courses, you know he’s too modest to admit everything he just described of a great math teacher just described himself. Whether you struggle with math or absolutely love it, Jeff is a one of a kind teacher and PCC is very lucky to have him.