Meet new faculty member Lisa Hawley

Portrait of Lisa Hawley

The mathematics department is pleased to introduce Lisa Hawley, one of two new faculty members who started at GVSU in Fall 2022.  Growing up in Ohio, Lisa attended Miami University in Oxford; she was the first in her family to attend college and obtained her teacher certification in elementary education.  She then taught 3rd grade in a school outside of Columbus for the next 18 years, during which she completed an online master’s program at Michigan State University with a concentration in math, science, and reading.  She also taught as an adjunct at a local college, specializing in educational technology.

During her time teaching 3rd grade, Lisa found herself frequently hosting student teachers and began to realize how much she loved teaching teachers.  This motivated her to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics education at Michigan State.  Returning to an academic environment after so much time away presented some challenges, as she says: “I had forgotten how to be a student.”  The expectations for writing, in particular, were much different compared to how she had to be very concise when communicating with parents of her students.


As an outgrowth of her experience as a teacher, Lisa began to explore her interest in supporting elementary teachers who are anxious about math.  She saw both in her own experience and her research that teachers often replicate the environments in which they were themselves taught and that if that environment created anxiety in them, then they were likely to pass that anxiety on to their students.  Lisa noticed, however, that these teachers weren’t anxious when teaching reading, and she began to look for ways to help teachers leverage their confidence in teaching reading to improve their teaching of math. 

In her Ph.D. work, Lisa studied a cohort of teacher candidates at MSU, attending their classes and listening for the connections they were making between literacy and math.  She found that these future teachers rarely made meaningful connections when participating in course work  but were much more likely to do so in focus groups that she led.  Her current research investigates strategies for helping teachers make these connections more naturally, and this is what led her to Grand Valley.

Lisa says that it feels like the job description for her current position was written just for her.  In particular, Grand Valley’s new PCKET program (Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Elementary Teaching) is designed to foster the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that forms the foundation of Lisa’s research.  She hopes, for instance, to be able to work with a cohort of PCKET students who are simultaneously taking math and literacy courses so that they can use their strengths in teaching literacy to become more confident math teachers.

Her first year teaching at Grand Valley has gone well, and she says she values how supportive her colleagues are and how much cooperation and appreciation for different areas of expertise she has found here.  Her own mission to support her students’ success aligns nicely with that of the math department and university.  She also enjoys the students, whom she characterizes as curious and focused on learning.  They’ve even supported her as she has made the transition to teaching in a new environment. 

Outside of her work life, Lisa enjoys making all kinds of things, particularly crafts and knitting.  She is particularly fond of sewing and making clothes, in addition to paper crafts.  Lisa also enjoys board games and has a large collection of games in her office so that she can use games to help her students develop strategies for teaching counting.

We’re so glad that Lisa has joined our department.  We appreciate the care she shows for her students and look forward to the fruits of her efforts to help them become more confident math teachers.  



Page last modified April 6, 2023