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July Alumni Recognition: Dr. Norma Noguera

Jim Schultz | Jul 1, 2014

Norma and daughters

 “To be a teacher is more than a job, it is a privilege to be part of your students' lives and to see them grow.”  - Norma Noguera

Inspiring Change

Before the degrees were conferred at the 1998 Commencement, in which Norma Noguera received her Ph. D. in Mathematics Education, Ohio University President Robert Glidden asked Norma to stand and be recognized.  He explained to the audience that it was likely the first time that five people got jobs because one person graduated.  Norma had made it a condition for accepting a position at the College of Charleston, that they would also have to find jobs for her four college-age children.  Eager to hire her because of her outstanding credentials, the College of Charleston complied.

With this impetus, all of Norma's four children not only graduated from college, but all earned advanced degrees. Like their mother, all of her children have highly successful careers, and none of her siblings had a college degree until Norma was able to help two of them graduate after she completed her degree.

Norma's Time at Ohio University

After earning undergraduate degrees in mathematics education and computer science education in her native Costa Rica, Norma earned a masters degree at OU in 1993-1994, working with Professor Charles Smith.  She then went on to with her Ph. D. studies in mathematics education.  This also involved working as an assistant to her advisor James Schultz, then Robert L. Morton Professor of Mathematics Education. 

While at Ohio University, Norma was involved in numerous projects, including an Eisenhower grant, the Upward Bound Program, The Plains Project, and a project funded by the Ohio State Department of Education.  During her time at the College of Charleston, and later at the California State University Long Beach, Norma built on her research interest in the use of computer algebras as a learning tool and her strong commitment to equity and bilingual education.  She became in demand locally, nationally, and internationally.


Her contributions included team mentoring for minority students in middle and secondary schools in Long Beach and Los Angeles, as well as, California state initiatives in assessment, algebra, and serving Hispanics. She was a Deputy Chief Examiner for the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, grading examinations for student from schools all over the world.  She was a nationally known presenter including venues such as New York University, Teachers College of Columbia University, Penn State University, Georgia State University, the University of Hawaii, and Indiana State University.  At her own California State University Long Beach, she was named 'favorite professor' by the Class of 2008 seniors.

Her international presentations and consultations took her to Belize for the Inter-American Development Bank, the Ministries of Education in Costa Rica and Paraguay, the Athens Institute for Education and Research in Greece, the Conference for Didactics in Mathematics in Brazil, the Latin American Conference in Uruguay, the International Congress on Mathematical Education in Denmark, the Vienna Symposium on Integrating Technology into Mathematics Education in Austria, the South American Conference on the Use of Calculators and Pedagogy in Chile, the International Derive Computer Algebra Conference in England, and the International Congress on Computer-Assisted Instruction in Mathematics in Costa Rica.

Motherhood and the Noguera Family

Despite traveling all over the globe, Norma maintained close ties to her family.  She was devoted to her parents, children, and grandchildren. Like Norma, her children Wendy, Gina, Sindy, and Scott all have highly successful careers.

 “Our mom is the epitome of what hard work is and how much it pays off.  She is the inspiration to all of us that has driven our hunger towards education and towards becoming the professionals that we are today!  She is a testimony of love and sacrifice, of what a mother does when she loves her children!  She's my hero!” Wendy Chaves

Sindy summed up her mother’s philosophy in three main rules: “My mom was always very clear with us.  Since we were very little she told us three things.  First, that the way to get out of poverty was by studying -- especially math and science. When you study, nobody can take that knowledge away from you.  It’s unlimited because you are constantly learning new things.  Second, that if you do something you like and are passionate about it you will never see it as a job.  You will dedicate the time to do it and do it well because you like it, because it is your passion.   The last thing she will tell us, even to this day is, never settle for less. If you accomplish something good, there is a whole list of other things you can accomplish after that.  Always have a goal and something bigger to look forward to.  Challenge your mind, and never sell yourself short.  My mom is definitely a person that teaches by example, and I have lived my adult life looking up to her and always remembering these three things.” 

Driven by this outlook, the family earned no less than twelve college degrees, plus additional credentials in administration.  All are fluent in English and Spanish. Norma’s perseverance and her investment in her education and her family have been richly rewarded.  Countless people benefit from the family’s contributions in education and science, inextricably linked to the five years Norma spent at Ohio University.  In Norma’s words, “I am very proud to be an OU alumnus. The quality of education I received at OU not only opened doors for me in academia but for my family as a whole.  It changed not only my life but the lives of my family.”