RVC prof finally wins teaching recognition

The wait is over.

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is the phrase Diane Koenig used to describe Paul McCombs, her colleague in the Mathematics department at Rock Valley College with regard to his experience with the RVC Faculty of the Year Award. 

Since McCombs began teaching at Rock Valley College in 2001, he has been nominated for the College’s prestigious Faculty of the Year award in all but one year, but had never won.

Dr. Paul McCombs, RVC Associate Professor of Mathematics, was honored last week as the 26th recipient of the Rock Valley College Faculty of the Year award.  

Koenig praised McCombs as personable, knowledgeable, a great educator in the classroom, approachable for his students outside of the classroom, and continually impressive in his ability to clearly and concisely explain complex topics in an enjoyable, accurate, and succinct manner to his students. 

She believes he exemplifies all that the Faculty of the Year award represents.

By his own admission, McCombs was not always successful in Mathematics. He struggled with it in high school, but by college had learned to not be afraid of it and enjoy it. 

He decided then and there that he wanted to be the type of math teacher who could remove the fear and anxiety of math class for his students. 

He likes to use “tricks” to show students the interesting side of Mathematics and enjoys showing his students that math is not a mystery, but a fun subject that can help them later in life. He loves when students come back to him years later to tell him how his classes have helped them in their jobs or their personal lives, even citing one example of a student who told him the geometry he had learned in class helped him greatly when building a new deck on his house.

“It’s always nice to hear that I have prepared someone for the next step in their life,” says McCombs. “I have found enjoyment and satisfaction in my work knowing that I have impacted many people in a subject that few like.”

In his 13 years at RVC, McCombs has taught all levels of Mathematics, from developmental to the highest level math courses offered at the College. 

He has also served on numerous College committees and on the boards of many community, state, and national organizations, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Illinois Mathematics Association of Community Colleges, and the Northern Illinois Association of Teachers of Mathematics, where he currently serves as president.

McCombs is originally from Cherryville, N.C. He served in the U.S. Air Force and received his associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from the Community College of the USAF before going on to earn his bachelor’s degree in General Mathematics from Appalachian State University, and later his master’s degree in Pure Mathematics from Kansas State University. 

He also just recently earned his doctorate in Mathematics Education at Northern Illinois University.

Fellow faculty members, campus colleagues, and family members, were on hand as McCombs was presented his award from Dr. Martin Quirk, RVC Professor of History and co-chair of the Faculty of the Year Committee. The RVC Faculty of the Year award winner also receives a monetary stipend from the Rock Valley College Foundation. 


–News Bulletin news sources