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Math professor to retire

Published: Friday, November 19, 2004

Updated: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 16:09

Image: Math professor to retire

Photo by D.A. James

Professor David Sanchez teaches College Algebra. Sanchez will complete 32 years at this college and retire next summer.

Math Professor David Sanchez stands before a MATH 1314, College Algebra, class dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt sporting a cartoon of a teacher and student doing a math problem at a chalkboard.

“This is the part I always hate,” the cartoon teacher muses as the teacher comes to the equal sign of a problem.

The back reveals the source of the shirt — the Mathematics Association of America.

Sanchez’s attire capsulizes two traits that have made his teaching career remarkable — his ability to connect with students and his dedication to enhancing the profession.

Sanchez, 64, plans to retire in July.

A colleague, Professor Loraine Lopez, calls Sanchez’s teaching methods unorthodox. In class, when he presents a new concept he instructs the students to put down their pencils to keep them engaged in following the math concept or formula.

If students are taking notes, Sanchez said they are thinking about writing and not giving full attention to the problem on the board. He gives them time after discussion to copy the information.

For the last three to four years, Lopez has had an office near Sanchez’s in McCreless Hall. He usually enters the building whistling, she said.

“He seems to just love life.”

He also is willing to offer advice like a cold cup of water from his well of experience and knowledge, she said.

Professor Carlos Corona, a student of Sanchez’s 13 years ago, said, “He was passionate in the classroom. He made me feel like learning math was the most important thing I could be doing.”

After Corona became a faculty member, he realized Sanchez had strong interests in the college community and math profession beyond the classroom, noting Sanchez’s active involvement in the Faculty Senate and the national math association.

Math Chair Conrad Krueger, who was a student of Sanchez’s in 1990, said Sanchez was an excellent teacher.

“Mr. Sanchez was very entertaining in the classroom and kept students interested. He’s very outgoing and students like him,” Krueger said.

A basic philosophy of life for Sanchez is respect and acceptance of all people.

He said when he was a student a girl he was dating noticed this trait about him. “‘You treat all people the same,’” she told him.

Sanchez earned a bachelor’s degree in math and a minor in physics from Texas A&M University in 1965. He soon went on to get a master’s degree in math from Sam Houston State University. As a graduate student, he taught classes and liked to teach.

In 1972, after teaching for five years in two-year colleges and Sam Houston State University, he returned to San Antonio and started teaching at this college.

Sanchez had grown up near Woodlawn Lake in the Jefferson High School area where he enjoyed playing sports and growing plants at home.

When neighbors asked his mother for clippings from her plants, he recalled she replied, “‘The plants are David’s; you’ll need to ask him.’”

So, his neighbors were surprised when he returned from college as a teacher and not a botanist or a coach, he said.

In 33 years teaching full time at this college and 15 teaching part-time at the University of Texas at San Antonio, he never lost his excitement for the profession.

Never wearying of being in the thick of things, Sanchez helped develop the math section of the Texas Assessment Skills Program, TASP.

In 1987, the Texas Legislature told the Commission of Education that by 1989 a program must be in place to test junior-level college students in basic math, reading and writing.

Though he was honored to be chair of the TASP math council, Sanchez didn’t agree with the program because he believed it was teaching college-level students eighth-grade essentials. He suggested students simply be required to take college algebra for the math section.

The TASP was replaced in 2003 with the Texas Higher Education Assessment, which allows students to delay taking remedial courses.

Sanchez said he is proud of the high standards the math department has maintained.

The purpose of math is to teach students analytical thinking and to prepare them for the next class level of math, he said.

How will Sanchez’s life move forward after retirement?

“Read, travel, explore.”

He also may teach math in a private school.

No doubt he’ll find enough to keep him busy and do it with the humor and devotion that has impacted students for more than three decades.

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