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Black History Month
2021 Honoree

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Robert Berry

Robert Berry

Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Samuel Braley Gray Professor of Mathematics Education

University of Virginia

Past-President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

 

 

 

Where are you from? 

I am Hampton, Virginia. A village raised me with role models that included my mother and my aunts, uncles, and older cousins. Growing up, I spent a significant amount of time at Hampton University, attending academic, athletic, and social events and programming. 

 

Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences. 

As an elementary student, I would read the old “World Book Encyclopedia.” Reading the encyclopedia exposed me to things I was not learning in school, but it prepared me to be part of a trivia team in my elementary school. Essentially, my love for mathematics is related to my early curiosities. I was positioned as a math leader on our trivia team, and I would read and study books to prepare for practice and competitions.

My sixth-grade teacher created the space in our classroom that was essentially a space for tinkering and exploring. In this space, I would use my imagination to create “stuff.” I vividly remember learning about geodesic domes and made the connection with the geodesic dome on our school’s playground. 

 

What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences? 

I am proud to have served as President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics from April 2018 to April 2020. I am pleased with NCTM’s leadership in access, equity, and empowerment. During my term as president of NCTM, we: 

● launched a new journal, Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching in PK–12;

● published the Catalyzing Change series to push the field of mathematics of education to engage in critical conversation on policies and practices impacting mathematics teaching and learning; and

● expanded NCTM’s advocacy work, which included visits to Capitol Hill to interact directly with Congress members and their staff.

 

 

What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life? 

About my personal life, I am most proud of my children and wife. Also, I am still the “kid” who likes to make his “mama” and “aunties” proud. In 2019, my wife, mother, aunts, and uncle attended the NCTM Annual meeting and were able to see my professional identity. I took pride in them seeing me in my role as president of NCTM. My mother told many attendees that “…her son was the president.”

 

Finally, please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

“Truly wonderful and getting better” is a phrase I often use to start conversations with students, teachers, or anyone with a stake in mathematics education. I typically introduce “Truly wonderful and getting better” to respond to the question “How are you doing?” Then I might follow up with “What makes you or your work truly wonderful?” and “What are you doing to get better?” Too often, my follow-up questions startle people because I believe they are rarely asked to reflect on how wonderful they are as learners, teachers, and people. I encourage you to engage in your own “truly wonderful and getting better” reflections.