Award-winning math professor to retire after 33 years

Nominated for this year’s Hayward Award, a state chancellor’s award for the best community college professor in the state, mathematics instructor Katherine Yoshiwara will be retiring after her 33-year tenure at Pierce College.

Yoshiwara’s dedication has resulted in her being the only math professor in the country to have won Teacher of the Year awards from two major national math organizations—the American Math Association of Two-Year Colleges and the Math Association of America for both two-year colleges and universities.

“Pierce’s Math Department is known nationally as a leader in math curriculum and pedagogy development, and a large part of the reason is Kathy’s leadership,” said mathematics instructor Kathie Yoder. “I personally have been inspired by her to be the best teacher and colleague I can be.”

The math teachers at Pierce have taught a little bit of everything, according to Yoshiwara. She has instructed arithmetic all the way up the second year of university.

Originally from New England, Yoshiwara grew up in New Jersey and spent some time in Richmond, Virginia before making her place in history in the country.

“I came to California to go to University of Los Angeles, California for graduate school,” said Yoshiwara. “I also went to Michigan State.”

Still maintaining a hint of her English ancient, Yoshiwara has jam packed 33 years of math into her 5’2” frame.

“It has been long enough [that] there are so many things I would like to do,” said Yoshiwara. “I am taking cello lessons right now. I really like gardening but I won’t give up on math.”

She writes textbooks and is on the math editorial board for online textbooks so the retirement will give her time to work on other projects, like leading workshops nationally to present the results of her research in the math field.

“Plus I have to come back and bug my colleagues,” said Yoshiwara as she threw her head with laughter.

Right out of University of California, Los Angeles, Yoshiwara was offered a position at Hughes Air Craft through her school’s partnership. A program that took a lot of math majors, but Yoshiwara said she wasn’t too fond of working with radar.

Yoshiwara taught part-time at Santa Monica College, Compton College and was a graduate teaching assistant at Michigan State University in both the physics and math departments before permanently settling down at Pierce in 1979.

“I started teaching part-time at some community colleges,” said Yoshiwara. “Right after I got the job at Hughes, I was offered the job at Pierce so I thought, ‘oh, thank goodness.’”

Yoshiwara takes pride in her job and teaching practices.

She ends her classes 20 minutes early, so that students can get one-on-one time with her to ask questions about that day’s lecture.

“She is a good teacher. She tries to make sure everybody can solve the equations,” said one of Yoshiwara’s 20-year old students, Kris Davenport. “I always stay after because sometimes we don’t get the material in class, and she gets that.”

Yoshiwara gets the chance to “relax” as she plans to enjoy her retirement after some long years of service.

“She has been a leader in the department, spurring us all on to be better teachers, to improve our methodology, and to continue striving to improve the math education experience and success of our students,” said Yoder.