Faculty Awards and Honors
Pam Guenther began life as a Word Bringer
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Pam is the oldest of four children (and only girl) of Gerald Zimmerman and Kathleen Reilly. Both of her parents were deaf and Pam became their connection to the hearing world at a very young age. She was their interpreter, even answering the phone at the early age of three. As the first child, she helped to teach her younger siblings how to speak and survive in an aloof world. She brought new words into the home like gifts from a secret source.
When Pam was seven, the Zimmermans moved to Ashland, Nebraska, a town with a population
around 2,000, nestled between Omaha and Lincoln. Pam credits the teachers and families
in the town for allowing them to grow up without a sense of their limitations and
teaching them a small town work ethic. In high school, Pam was able to participate
in volleyball, basketball, track, speech, debate, swing choir, and theater. She graduated
her class and, as an academically talented senior, was invited to the University of Nebraska-Omaha Distinguished Scholarship Competition exam and performed well enough to receive one of the five full scholarships to the university.
In fall of 1989, she began her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at University
of Nebraska-Omaha, with a minor in communications.
To support herself in college, she had to give up her theater hobby, and began working three jobs. As a member of the Honors Program, her Honors Senior Thesis compared individualized instruction with lecture-taught mathematics courses. In 1994, she was named the Math Honor Student by the mathematics department and graduated summa cum laude.
In 1993, her mother died suddenly of an asthma attack at the young age 47. Left bereft
and adrift, Pam decided it was time for a change. Coupled with an uncertainty about
what she wanted to be when she grew up (though she knew she NEVER wanted to be a teacher),
she began to apply at graduate schools in distant and warmer places than Nebraska!
She landed at Arizona State University with a fellowship and teaching assistant appointment.
She was grateful for the financial assistance to attend school, but petrified of the teaching assignment—until she taught her first Elementary Algebra course. She fell in love with the little light bulbs that went off in the classroom every day. She fell in love with the idea of helping students see the
beauty of the subject she loved and she fell in love with converting their anxiety about mathematics to a belief that they could do it. This passion led
her to participate in every part of learning the art of teaching mathematics.
Pam was an elected member of the Organization of Graduate Students and helped train
all incoming graduate students to be teaching assistants. She completed her Master’s
in 1997, was hired as a full-time instructor in the First Year Mathematics department
at Arizona State University, and began teaching part-time at Mesa Community College.
She worked closely with the Disability Resource Office, presenting workshops on math
study skills for students with disabilities and offering a section of mathematics
just for students with disabilities during two summer sessions. She was the director
service learning program that brought pre-service elementary teachers to teach math to second graders at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She also was the math supervisor for the ASU summer bridge program, a program for “at risk” freshman entering ASU in the fall. In 1998, an interdisciplinary PhD program in the Mathematics Department and the College of Education was created and Pam began coursework toward the Mathematics Education doctorate. She and her colleagues wrote an activity book to supplement Math for Elementary Teacher courses, “Active Math: Activities for Prospective Teachers.”
In the spring of 1999, while attending a national math teachers’ conference in San
Francisco, Pam met a high school teacher from California,
David Guenther. They fell in love and were married, and David lured her to the Golden State. She began teaching at SBCC in August 2000.
While at SBCC, she has been involved in math education for teachers locally and nationally; helped create a math course for nursing students and refresher courses for pre-algebra, elementary algebra, and intermediate algebra; and created supplemental materials to enhance courses in the culinary arts program. Pam is an original member of the Partnership for Student Success, a faculty-driven initiative that is the umbrella for student support programs on campus, such as the Gateway Tutoring Program. She also piloted an accelerated algebra sequence that helped lay the groundwork for the Title V grant that created the award-winning Express to Success Program. She is currently working on the state Basic Skills Transformation
grant and the federal Title III Removing Barriers to STEM Education grant, both of which are focused on improving access and success for
underrepresented students in mathematics.
Pam has two children in middle school, Madeline (13) and Colin (12), and between their
activities and her husband’s coaching, spends most nights
and weekends grading papers at practices, lessons, games, and performances.
—Hugh Reilly, Pam’s godfather