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Meet new faculty member Levi Molenje

Levi Molenje grew up in Namagara village in western Kenya, about 90 miles north of Lake Victoria. Teachers in the village were respected, and his parents firmly believed in the value of education, always stressing the importance of studying. Though many in his village were unable to attend high school, Levi's parents found the means to send Levi as well as his siblings to high school to continue their education in spite of various obstacles.

While Levi had many options open to him, his experiences of helping younger siblings with their schoolwork and explaining ideas and homework to friends led him towards teaching. He studied mathematics and mathematics education at Kenyatta University and began his career teaching high school. In Kenya, qualified teachers submit their application to a central commission that hires and then places teachers throughout the country. Levi was grateful to be placed at a school in his home district in western Kenya and taught at an all-girls boarding school for two years.

He then decided to return to school, completing a master's degree at University of Nairobi, and gaining the opportunity to teach mathematics at the same university for almost 2 years. During this time he met a mathematics education faculty member from Syracuse University who was teaching at Kenyatta University while on her sabbatical. Levi became interested in the program at Syracuse and decided to apply; he completed his studies there and will be awarded his doctorate this year. One of his biggest adjustments to life in graduate school in the US was the snow; though he had heard about it, nothing could quite prepare him for the experience of actually walking in the white stuff. Living in the snowiest metropolitan area in the United States ultimately prepared him well for his recent move to west Michigan.

Levi joined the mathematics department at GVSU this past fall, where he has come to appreciate our small class sizes. One of his favorite courses to teach is Mathematics for Elementary Teachers II (MTH 222) because it is a course where students can apply knowledge they have learned through a tutoring field experience at a local elementary school, and this motivates and energizes the students.

Levi's professional interests center around the mathematical preparation of prospective K-12 teachers and the professional development of in-service K-12 teachers. His current research examines different uses of graphing calculators in the high school classroom and how different teaching styles affect the role and use of this technology. He is also planning to work with a secondary teacher and his class at a local high school, developing exploratory activities based on the results of his dissertation.

When away from work, Levi enjoys spending time with his wife and three young children. He reports that his children enjoy the snow a lot more than he does. He also likes running, playing basketball, throwing darts and playing board games, and reading. Among his favorite books is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which he likes because not only does it describe the changes and struggles that occur when the British missionaries come to a region of Igbo villages in Nigeria, bringing with them their culture and religion, but it also examines larger issues such as: do you do what is right or do you follow the rules when the rules and what is right appear to be at odds?