Crespo receives Outstanding Faculty honor

February 23, 2017

Photo courtesy of D. L. Turner / Communications and Brand Strategy

Michigan State University honored Professor Sandra Crespo with the William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award at the annual All-University Awards on Feb. 7, 2017. Crespo was among 10 MSU faculty members who received the award for their outstanding contributions to research and education.

Crespo, a renowned mathematics educator and researcher, is recognized for her work promoting mathematics as a collaborative and creative practice that requires diversity of perspectives and people. Her work is driven by her commitment to equity and educational justice for underserved students and their teachers.

Crespo is currently a research fellow on a National Science Foundation-funded project that is using LessonSketch as a web environment for researching and designing representations of mathematics classrooms. Crespo’s research is focusing on reimagining mathematics classrooms as collaborative rather than competitive spaces for learning.

In 2011, Crespo collaborated on a ground-breaking study seeking to explore the potential of educational media to influence children’s perceptions of learning and mathematics. The study examined Cyberchase, an Emmy award-winning public television program, and was able to demonstrate the positive effects of this type of educational media on students’ learning and their self-perceptions as students of mathematics. For Crespo, this study is an example of how education researchers and media designers can work together to overturn cultural stereotypes of who can do math and what is valued in mathematics.

She is known for her contributions to teacher education. She has co-authored a book, “Smarter Together! Collaboration and Equity in the Elementary Mathematics Classroom,” which is used around the country in teacher preparation programs and in professional development programs. Another book, “Cases for Mathematics Teacher Educators: Facilitating Conversations about Inequities in the Mathematics Classroom,” which Crespo co-edited in 2016, discusses educational dilemmas that teacher educators inevitably face when teaching about educational justice.

Crespo is also the editor of Mathematics Teacher Educator, a journal that is shaping the research and practice of mathematics teacher educators across the U.S. Crespo and Associate Professor Kristen Bieda, who serves as associate editor for the journal, will lead the editorial team of this journal through 2018.

When asked about why she chose mathematics as a career, Crespo answered that mathematics has always played an important role in her life.

“Mathematics is about making good arguments—is this true? Not true? Is this true always, sometimes, never? Can you prove it? … These were the kinds of conversations I loved having with my family, in school and with friends,” Crespo explained. Her interests (and future career in academia) even ran in the family, with an uncle who was a mathematician and a faculty member at a local university. She credits her uncle for supporting and encouraging her to pursue a career in mathematics education.

She is indebted to her family—her “biggest supporters”—and to colleagues throughout the MSU College of Education, including Dorinda Carter Andrews and Angela Calabrese Barton, who nominated Crespo for the award. Calabrese Barton won the same award in 2015.

Crespo is also thankful for the support and inspiration she gets from colleagues and students in the Department of Teacher Education and from Rueda Latin@, a student organization of Latino/a students within the College of Education.

“Looking at the previous awardees from our department and our college is humbling,” Crespo added. “It is rewarding to see that the good you are trying to do in the world of education is recognized by your peers as a worthy goal for this institution.”

The William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award was previously known as the Distinguished Faculty Award. Crespo joins the ranks of more than 500 faculty, including 25 from the College of Education, who have received the award since it was established in 1952.

Learn more about Crespo and the other 2017 awardees of the William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty award on MSU Today