Professor Reynolds did not consider teaching until he was explaining a computational concept to a peer of his, Faith. She told him, “I don’t know what you’re doing with computers. You should be a teacher.” For a long time, he did not particularly enjoy school and did not have plans to teach after getting his degree in computer science. Out of college, he started in corporate America writing software for the Bloomberg software company (which was founded by former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg).
He tells me an anecdote about a time when he was in college and upon learning he was completing a degree in math, a black peer of his said, “We don’t do that.” He replied, “Well, I do that.” His experience as a black man in mathematics culminated in experiences like this, most of which he ignored and kept going.
His teaching style embraces the absurdity that is the world of mathematics, and he wants his students to approach math in a way that won’t leave them running scared. At Rutgers, he once brought cookies to one of his lecture classes. He told the students to take one cookie if they were nervous and two cookies if they were “double nervous.” One the day of the final exam, one of his students brought a whole gallon of milk and cups for everyone in the lecture to eat with their cookies. He makes it a point to try and not teach in the same ways he was taught. He said, “The average 20 year old student when I was in college, and the average 20 year old student now is very different. These two students are ultimately going to learn differently and require different methods of teaching.” He compares the way he was taught to his grandfather learning to swim in the West Indies. His grandfather would be walking along a body of water and suddenly pushed and expected to instinctively learn. This approach was similar to the hands-off method of teaching he had gotten accustomed to. Needless to say, he does his best to create lessons in a way that most of his students can follow, especially using cartoons. He said, “What I enjoy most about teaching is just when my students get it. In a lot of ways, math is a language course, so of course students are going to talk funny while essentially learning the language.”
He began teaching at Middlesex College as an adjunct professor in the year 2000. He remembers a time when he had a student originally from India tell him she was having trouble following him in class. Since she was one of his best students, he started to worry that if she hadn’t understood the material then the entire class might’ve been equally as confused. She told him, “You explain too much, and I’m from India.” The way she was accustomed to being taught more closely mirrored his experiences as a student and they each started laughing about the hilarity of the situation. Professor Reynolds enjoys how diverse the students he teaches are, both in terms of cultural makeup and mathematical skill.
He said, “It’s interesting to see how many Black professors there really are. I remember only meeting one in my entire educational journey.” More than being one of a handful of Black professors at Middlesex College, Professor Reynolds is personable, funny and dedicated to teaching students in a way that aligns with the way they learn best.
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