B.S Western Colorado University, Mathematics
T.J. Caldwell was raised outside Louisville, KY. In 2002, he earned a degree in Recording Arts and worked in various recording studios on the front range of Colorado. After spending several years in windowless rooms, it was time for a change. T.J. went back to school to study natural resource management, but quickly found a love for teaching mathematics. He went to Western Colorado University and earned a B.S. in Mathematics, then went on to Flagstaff, AZ to earn his Master’s degree in Mathematics Education. T.J. has taught various math courses at Western Colorado University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona. T.J. now lives in Gunnison with his partner Jen Foster (also a lecturer at Western), their cat Stevie, and their Bernese Mountain Dog named Khione (named after the Greek snow deity).
How did you discover Western?
I started my journey back to school at Colorado Mountain College. I originally was interested in pursuing a degree in Natural Resource Management. However, while I was attending Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, CO., I took on a job as a student tutor for all of the math classes offered there. The joy I received from helping students achieve their goals in their math classes helped me make the decision to pursue a degree in math. I knew that I wanted to stay in the mountains of Colorado if possible, and Western was the perfect place for me. I came on a school visit with some friends and fell in love with the Gunnison Valley. It was exactly the kind of community and environment I could see myself living in.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
The highlight of my teaching career comes simply from working at Western. I went off to Arizona to earn my Master’s degree in math education, and ended up spending a few years teaching at Northern Arizona University as well as the University of Arizona. These were fantastic opportunities for me, and I really enjoyed the students and my fellow faculty I worked with. When I noticed a position for lecturer in mathematics at my alma mater, my heart did a backflip! I was so pleased that I was able to go back to my “happy place” in the Gunnison Valley and work with some of the best math professors I have ever had the opportunity to learn from. It is really a joy to be back at Western in the math department and doing my best to keep up the fantastic learning opportunities for the students.
What most excites you about your field?
One of the toughest challenges with teaching math is encountering the mental block that a lot of people have toward it. Math is one of those strange subjects that asks us to think about problems and what tools we need to get to a solution. This is a different way of thinking than a lot of other fields of studies. The thing that excites me about math is helping students find that “aha!” moment when something clicks in their mind and starts to make sense. I also make it one of my goals as an educator, at the very least, to give students a positive experience with math. For a lot of students, the mentality of, “I’m just not very good at math” is one of the things I work to undo. I firmly believe we are all good at at math, but we all make connections in different ways. The thing that excites me is finding a way, or ways, to help students make their own connections.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
I am a mountain person at heart. I love everything the Gunnison Valley has to offer. In the winters, you can find me on the slopes skiing. In the warmer parts of the year I can be found either floating the Gunnison River, camping with my partner and our Bernese Mountain Dog, fishing in the various rivers and lakes, or simply going for a hike in mountains. This is a beautiful part of our state and country, and I love living here!
- College Algebra
- Finite Mathematics with Calculus
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Modeling with Algebraic and Trigonometric Functions
- Exploring and Understanding Data
External Professional Affiliations
- Northern Arizona University
- The University of Arizona