Dotty Dady shies away from taking any of the spotlight away from her students.
Dady, who started teaching math in the Cherry Creek School District in 2003, feels most comfortable when she's highlighting the accomplishments of her pupils. She's more apt to detail the achievements of the Cherry Creek High School Math Team or praise the promise of individual students than mention any of her own successes.
But that doesn't mean that Dady doesn't boast any successes to talk about. Most recently, Dady received the prestigious Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished Mathematics Teaching in High School from the Mathematical Association of America. Dady is only the second high school math teacher from Colorado to ever have earned the honor, an award that celebrates a marked commitment to making a "difference in students' enthusiasm for mathematics," as per the criteria for the award.
Even so, Dady is hesitant to take any credit.
"I'm very humble and I fly under the radar. I don't draw attention to myself; I always try to put the kids out in front. I'm in the background," she said. "I felt a sense of accomplishment when I found out, but it was for being a motivator. I'm not this brilliant person who can work all of these problems and equations, but I can steer and guide kids and direct them and encourage them."
"I can get kids to do things that they never thought they could do, and I guess that's what I'm all about. I'm a motivator. I can show them a lot, but they can show me a lot, too. They know things that I've never dreamed of knowing."
-- Dotty Dady, Cherry Creek High School Math Teacher and Recipient of the Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished Mathematics Teaching in High School from the Mathematical Association of America.
Those skills haven't gone unnoticed by Dady's students or colleagues, as is clear from the impressive amount of support she receives from all corners. Fellow CCHS math teacher Paul Trollinger and department coordinator Cayel Dwyer wrote the required nomination letters necessary to put Dady in the running for the award, which specifically celebrates teachers who have guided students through rigorous and demanding American Mathematics Competitions. The Cherry Creek High School Math Team has made impressive strides since Dady came to Cherry Creek from Cherokee Trail in 2011, facing foes from across the country and claiming top prizes at national AMC contests.
While these accomplishments stem largely from the students' mathematical know-how, they also have solid roots in Dady's encouragement. Her classroom is the math team's unofficial home base. Math team students feel welcome dropping by during off periods and after school to puzzle over complicated problems on the white board. Avi Swartz, a CCHS senior who attended the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP), a three-week intensive problem solving camp held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, feels comfortable stopping by Dady's classroom in between classes to chat about his day.
It all speaks to Dady's unique teaching style, one that prizes inspiration and encouragement above stern lectures and by-the-numbers learning.
"I can get kids to do things that they never thought they could do, and I guess that's what I'm all about," Dady said. "I'm a motivator. I can show them a lot, but they can show me a lot, too. They know things that I've never dreamed of knowing," she added with a laugh.
The students aren't the only ones who pick up praise from Dady. When she talks about the Sliffe Award, Dady credits the culture of Cherry Creek High School and the work of Principal Ryan Silva. She speaks of a school-wide and district-wide commitment to excellence and she gives plenty of props to her colleagues.
"It's a collaborative effort," she insists.
In this case, all of Dady's humility can't fully diffuse the spotlight. The Edyth May Sliffe Award gives Dady her proper due as an educator and a motivator, however uncomfortable that may be for this teacher who prefers to fly under the radar.