Rhode island Mathematics teachers Association
A Tribute to AMEDEO DeROBBIO, Treasurer Emeritus
by David A. Capaldi
Amedeo DeRobbio was for many years, Treasurer of RIMTA. On the occasion of his retirement from this position, the RIMTA Executive Board designated him as Treasurer Emeritus in recognition of his many years of faithful service. Amedeo – known by many as "MACK" – was a devoted mathematics teacher/leader, and a super role model for a large number of people in the state and the region. His death in January of 1997 was a sad day for many who regarded Mack as a friend and colleague. He had a dry sense of humor and a subtle, gentle manner. He was always positive and a gentleman. He was a complete stickler for detail and precision which were qualities which were some of the things that made him a wonderful RIMTA treasurer. After his death, the RIMTA Executive Board decided to create the Amedeo DeRobbio Award, selecting a person who demonstrated Mack’s spirit and enthusiasm for mathematics. I am honored to have been named the third awardee in 1999.
Amedeo was a 1935 graduate of American International Institute (College) and earned an MAT in mathematics from Brown University in 1961. His master’s thesis was titled An Introduction to the Study of Groups. At Brown his advisors were W. A. Barns and Elmer R. Smith. He was also the recipient of a National Science Foundation Grant. Mack began his teaching in the public schools of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1936, teaching both mathematics and science as was the norm in those days before union contracts and "the number of teaching preps". He taught at Mount Pleasant High School for 23 years serving as department chair from 1967 to 1977. He was later named mathematics area supervisor for the City of Providence – a job he continued until he retired from public school teaching in 1981. Mack then began teaching part-time at Bryant College, now Bryant University, and continued doing this until 1991. Mack was an active member of RIMTA, ATMNE and NCTM as well as the Rhode Island Retired Teachers Association.
As an example of his precision, let me relate this story which I told at the awarding of the first DeRobbio Award to Sister Margaret Murphy, RSM, at the RIMTA Spring Meeting, May 13, 1997. One time, after I had Mack explain that he took it upon himself to write an acknowledgement in receipt of membership dues, I decided to have membership cards printed for him to use – one that would be perforated and contain a membership card for the member to keep. After I dropped them off at his house in Cranston, he called me at work the next day to ask me my thoughts about where the apostrophe should be in the word TEACHERS in RIMTA’s name. I told him I didn’t think it really was an important issue and that it probably didn’t make too much difference one way or the other. TEACHER’S or TEACHERS’. Needless to say, I don’t think Mack agreed with me – he never used those cards – which I think were printed TEACHER’S instead of what he thought should be TEACHERS’.
The 2023 DeRobbio Awardee was Vivian LaFerla, Professor of Mathematics Sciences and Educational Studies at Rhode Island College for nearly 50 years. Having earned a BS, MA and PhD in mathematics or mathematics education from Boston University, Vivian LaFerla has also received a variety of grants from RIDE, NSF, RIC and the RI Foundation as well as presented numerous workshops and sessions at local, regional, national and international conferences. She was one of the first people invited to give the Richard H. Balomenos Memorial Lecture at an ATMNE conference and has been recognized with the Paul Maixner Distinguished Teaching Award at RIC. Her hands-on lessons and innovative methods not only teach the curriculum but model stimulating pedagogy and inspire teachers.
In 2022, the DeRobbio Awardee was Sara Donaldson. Sara works as Assistant Professor of Education at Wheaton College where she is co-coordinator of the Early Childhood and Elementary Education programs. She earned her doctorate at Johns Hopkins University in Instructional Design for Online Teaching and Learning and does research in Teaching Methods, Teacher Education and Mathematics Education. As a professional development consultant, online course instructor, and clinical educator, Sara has also worked with pre-service and practicing educators for over a decade developing their ability to promote equitable access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities in their classrooms.
RIMTA's DeRobbio Awardee in 2021 was Steve Levesque. At the time of this award, Steve is a high school mathematics teacher at East Greenwich High School and formerly taught at Mount Saint Charles Academy. He is past President of RIMTA and is a long-time member of the RIMTA Board who is the man behind Merry Math Hours, This Month in RIMTA, numerous RIMTA conferences and so much more!
In 2020 we had two awardees, Kees DeGroot and Susan Pagliaro.
Kees DeGroot was born and raised in the Netherlands where he received a bachelor's equivalent degree for teaching secondary physics and mathematics. He immigrated to the United States in 1983 and has been a middle school and high school teacher and a teacher educator since 1989. Most recently, he has been a Professor of Secondary Mathematics Education at the University of Rhode Island. Kees has been the recipient of multiple awards, grants and honors, including the Robert Noyce Scholarship Grant Award.
Susan Pagliaro is the State Mathematics Specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Education and a former Middle School Mathematics teacher at Ferri Middle School in Johnston and St. Pius V School in Providence. Susan received her MAT from Rhode Island College and was named both the Ferri Middle School and Johnston Public Schools Teacher of the Year. She has also been a Presidential Award Nominee for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and a RIMLE Teacher of the Year Nominee.
Our 2019 awardee, Donna Christy, has taught at Rhode Island College (RIC) since the fall of 1989. In 2005, Donna was recognized with the Rhode Island College Alumni Honor Roll Award for Mathematics and in 2006, she earned the Paul Maixner Distinguished Teaching Award. She has presented at approximately 20 conferences and had at least a half-dozen published articles. Donna is extremely generous with her personal time and effort in creating exciting opportunities for others to love learning mathematics, whether it be as Alice in Numberland or Dorothy in the Math Wizard of Oz. Most importantly, she has infused her passion and love of teaching into a generation of math teachers. Former student and current math teacher Christine Payson said, "She is undeniably the reason I became a math teacher."
In 2018, Jim Donatelli, who recently retired from Texas Instruments, was presented the Amedeo DeRobbio Award. His tireless efforts have led to the use of TI technology in hundreds of classrooms, positively impacting the learning of thousands of students. A former elementary school teacher, Jim has always been an enthusiastic supporter of math education in Rhode Island and throughout New England. As a colleague remarked: “Jim goes about his work the same way he goes about his life: with a joyful spirit, the patience of Yoda, a remarkably consistent high standard of excellence, and with a mission driven to make the lives of all those he touches just a little bit better... that’s a landmark career, really, a landmark life.”
In 2017, Cathy Boutin, 8th Grade Mathematics teacher at John F. Deering Middle School in West Warwick, RI was the DeRobbio Awardee. She has taught mathematics for over 25 years and obtained her National Boards certification in 2009. She is RIMTA's Past President and has served as a member of RIMTA for over 20 years. She is the Region I representative to the NCTM Membership and Affiliate Relations Committee and was recently named President-elect of ATMNE (Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England).
The DeRobbio Awardee in 2016, Gina Kilday is a K-6 Math Coach in Exeter-West Greenwich School District. She is a past-president of RIMTA and Secretary of ATMNE and has been an active member of both boards for years. Gina was instrumental in creating RIMTA's Elementary Math Leaders Group. Gina regularly presents conference workshops and has helped to plan many conferences for RIMTA, ATMNE and NCTM. She was awarded the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and will be serving on the NCTM Board of Directors 2016-2019.
In 2015, RIMTA was honored to recognize Janice Meegan as the DeRobbio Awardee. Janice taught secondary mathematics, retiring from Cranston High School East and then working part-time at Rhode Island College after her retirement. She was a long-time member of the RIMTA Executive Board and President of Rhode Island Math League 1979-1984 and served on numerous conference steering committees for both RIMTA and ATMNE. She received the 1985 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for Secondary Mathematics. Janice continues to participate and support RIMTA and continues to mentor and inspire math teachers and students!
In 2014, The DeRobbio Award was presented to Susan Osberg. Sue is a past-president of RIMTA and has been an active member of the board for years. After teaching middle school for a short time, Sue switched to teaching high school mathematics in North Kingstown, RI in 1970 where she spent the majority of her career. Her leadership and spirit were apparent as she engaged and excited innumerable students, multiple student teachers and her colleagues until she retired both her classroom and Mathematics Department Chair positions in 2003. She was awarded the 2002 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Soon after her ‘retirement’ she began teaching at the University of Rhode Island where she has coordinated the secondary mathematics program, taught the secondary methods course EDC 430, supervised student teachers and taught in the mathematics department. Sue Osberg continues to inspire educators at so many levels.
The DeRobbio Awardee in 2013, Steve Yurek has been an active member of the mathematics community throughout New England for many years. He taught high school mathematics for 38 years and currently serves as Adjunct Professor at Lesley University's Graduate School of Education in Massachusetts. He has served multiple leadership roles including President of ATMNE, President of ATMIM and in Rhode Island as the Conference Chair of the 2011 ATMNE Conference hosted by RIMTA. Steve is an excellent mentor, colleague and friend and is always willing to help out and support teachers and mathematicians.
The 2010 DeRobbio Awardee is a retired middle school mathematics teacher, though you would not know it by the amount of math organizations in which she is actively involved. The 2010 awardee is Lynn Rakatansky, RIMTA's president from 2008-2010. Lynn has presented workshops at numerous RIMTA conferences, New England Regional Conferences, and NCTM National Conferences. She is an honored RI awardee of the 2000 Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science. Lynn is also on the Program Committee of the 2011 NCTM National Conference in Indianapolis, is President of the Association of Mathematics Teachers in New England (ATMNE), and is Program Co-chair of the ATMNE 2011 Rhode Island Conference. She is presently teaching at Lesley University.
Our beloved RIMTA secretary, Raymond Morin, (Ray to all who know him), is our well deserved 2008 DeRobbio Awardee. He joined the RIMTA board in 1994 and became the Independent School Rep in 1996. Willing to be even more involved, Ray took on the position of the RIMTA Secretary in 1999. At various ATMNE Conferences, he has served as the Student Help chair, the Registration chair, and the Equipment chair. The RI Math League has been fortunate to have him as the secretary/treasurer since 1990. Ray represents the Math League on the RIMTA board. Ray was also recognized at Rhode Island College with their Alumni Honor Roll Award. Honor Roll recipients are recognized for their achievements in their chosen fields and for their distinction as role models whose success demonstrates the value of a RIC degree.
L. Terry Coes, our 2006 DeRobbio recipient, is well known, both in the Rhode Island and the national mathematical community. Terry is a past RIMTA president, a 1988 RI recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, a past CPAM (Council of Presidential Awardees in Mathematics) president, and was on the NCTM Board of Directors 1997-2000. He co-authored Algebra 1: Explorations and Applications and Algebra 2: Explorations and Applications, published articles in the Mathematics Teacher, and was a 1998-1999 Mathematica High School Grant recipient. Terry also chaired a RIMTA-sponsored ATMNE Conference.
Two of our dedicated RIMTA board members, Claire Pollard and Dominic Dougherty, contributed so much to the Rhode Island Mathematics Community that it was decided to honor both of them in 2004. Claire Pollard served as a math resource teacher in the Providence School System and provided professional development workshops/courses for RI math teachers. In RIMTA, Claire served as the president and was the chairperson of RIMTA's Fall and Spring Conferences for many years. Dominic Dougherty, "Doc", Department Head at Chariho Regional High School, served as president of the RI Math League, represented the Math League on the RIMTA board, was coach for the All-State Team representing RI at ARML, and was active on numerous committees for ATMNE conferences.
Mary "Mike" Jerome, the 1992 Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science Awardee from Rhode Island was a math teacher at Thompson Middle School in Newport for over thirty years, was the 2003 recipient of the DeRobbio Award. A member of the RIMTA board since 1993, she was the CPAM Rep before becoming the RIMTA listserv owner and editor of RIMTA's web site.
Former RIC professor James Bierden, mathematics teacher preparation instructor, and the 2002 DeRobbio Award recipient has been promoting the NCTM Principles and Standards since 1989. He was also the ATMNE representative on the RIMTA board for many years.
The 2001 DeRobbio Award recipient, University of RI professor John Long, was one of RIMTA's newsletter editors for many years. He published top quality issues, keeping us abreast of the newest math education trends.
Marceline Zambuco, the 2000 recipient of the DeRobbio Award, and an active RIMTA board member for twenty years, was one of the first national awardees of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Math and Science from our state of Rhode Island.
The 1998 recipient of the DeRobbio Award was Lee Jacobs, our current RIMTA treasurer. He was instrumental in tripling our RIMTA membership and is an integral part of the Skills Commission and the Certificate of Initial Mastery work.
The first recipient of the DeRobbio Award (1997) was Sister Margaret Murphy, a dedicated math teacher for over thirty-five years. She was RIMTA's secretary for more than twenty years.