Celebrating staff: Meet Margie Ray

Meet Margie Ray, instructor in the University of Alberta's Decima Robinson Support Centre.

Katie Willis - 04 February 2020

For many undergraduate students, studying calculus is both daunting and necessary. Enter Margie Ray, instructor in the Decima Robinson Support Centre, Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Ray teaches pre-calculus courses that help to prepare students for studying math and stats at the university level. She is passionate about helping students succeed, and finds joy in mathematics.

Ray is one of more than 1,000 staff members in the faculty. The countless and invaluable contributions of this group make the world go round in the Faculty of Science, and we are thrilled to introduce you.

Meet Margie Ray.

Job title and area:

Instructor in the Decima Robinson Support Centre, Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

How long have you worked at the Faculty of Science?

Many years. I began working at the Faculty of Science when I was a science student, marking papers for several mathematics courses. I began teaching the precalculus course while completing an after degree in education. I have worked for the Decima Robinson Center since it opened in 2011.

What's a typical day like for you?

I teach using a lecture format in the morning and then provide drop-in help for precalculus students in the afternoon. I work hard to group people together so that they can work collectively to discuss problems. I try to create a relaxed atmosphere so students do not feel intimidated.

What's the most common question people ask you about your job?:

The most common question people ask me is why I entered the field of mathematics. The only reason I got into math is because my sister's friend, who was an engineering student, helped me register for my undergraduate classes. He asked me if I liked math, and although I told him chemistry was my favorite subject, he enrolled me in two math courses in my first term! I ended up enjoying the classes so much that I transitioned from the arts to the sciences and specialized in mathematics.

Favourite memory from work?

My favourite memories all centre around the students. One year, the first assignment was extremely challenging for the group of students who were taking precalculus. One student was having an emotional day and starting crying. It became a domino effect, and a few more were soon in tears. Another student in the class thought food would help and bought snacks for the whole class. We ate, cried, laughed, and did not do math! The student who first started crying went from doubting her mathematical skills to taking four calculus courses and excelling in a business degree with a focus in math.

The group focus in my class has created strong relationships and bonds. For example, an exchange student from Japan once said precalculus was the first class where she spoke to Canadian students. I feel fortunate to have smaller class sizes and time with the group, as I see how it helps students connect to their university community and make friends. Precalculus has even led to two romances!

Favourite place on campus?

My favorite place on campus is the Faculty Club (now called the University Club). When I was a student, my dad was a member. I sometimes used his membership for a dinner or lunch-I always paid him back later.

Favourite thing about working in the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta?

Hands down, my favorite thing about my job and the Faculty of Science is the amazing students I have the privilege of working with.

What would you do for work if you didn't do this?

If I was not a teacher, I would either write a children's book or open an ice cream shop-no single scoops allowed!