Instructor in Math Maria Litvin Wins RadioShack Teaching Award

A 22-year veteran of the teaching field and the author of best-selling computer books, Instructor in Mathematics Maria Litvin received a 2003 RadioShack National Teacher Award earlier this month. Mrs. Litvin was one of 110 recipients of the prestigious award nationwide and the only winner from Massachusetts. As a result of Mrs. Litvin’s teaching abilities, RadioShack rewarded her with a $3000 prize and the Academy with a $500 technology grant. “The RadioShack National Teacher Award has given me greater confidence in my teaching and inspired me to keep striving to do a better job,” Mrs. Litvin said. According to Mrs. Litvin, the most exciting part of teaching is when students understand material and achieve high scores on tests and in competitions. She is particularly impressed at the high scores that Andover students often place in national computer competitions, as PA routinely outperforms schools that focus primarily on math and computers. Although she has considered returning to college to be a professor, Mrs. Litvin has instead decided to remain at the Academy because of the campus’s intimate nature. “In college, you don’t have such close interaction with the students,” Mrs. Litvin said. Currently a teacher of pre-calculus, calculus and computer science, Mrs. Litvin feels that she gains knowledge on the students’ perspective by teaching lower-level math courses which allow her to teach the upper-level classes. While males constitute the vast majority of students who take computer science courses at the Academy, Mrs. Litvin hopes this will change. “Girls that sign up and take courses [in computer science] do very well,” she said, noting, “Girls are sometimes unsure of their abilities.” Because of Mrs. Litvin’s strong encouragement of females to join her classes, a greater number of girls are currently enrolled in computer science courses than in the past. As computer science is Mrs. Litvin’s specialty, she has dedicated a large amount of her time to founding a new web page design course, which will begin next fall. Along with her husband Gary Litvin, Mrs. Litvin has written multiple computer science manuals, workbooks, and textbooks that are some of the top-selling in the country. Her book C++ for You++ is currently the most used Advanced Placement (AP) computer science book in the United States. While on sabbatical last year, Mrs. Litvin wrote Java Methods, which is gaining popularity now that Java has become the computer language of choice. Mrs. Litvin explained that her computer science textbook writing career started out of frustration with old textbooks that tended to talk down the students. She recalled, “Many computer textbook publishers take a “for dummies” approach, and their books talk down to students. Our philosophy is to respect our students and set higher expectations.” She cites the openness and flexibility of Math Department Chairs Douglas Kuhlmann and David Penner for her successes as an author. Both men’s support, along with that of many of other faculty members, has been instrumental in Mrs. Litvin’s accomplishments as a teacher and author. From an early age, Mrs. Litvin had an affinity for teaching and computer programming. As a student at a math-oriented magnet school in Russia, Mrs. Litvin tutored her peers and found it rewarding to see students understand the concepts that she had explained. She did admit, however, “Nobody encouraged me [to teach].” After her graduation from high school, Mrs. Litvin later earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in mathematics and education at the Moscow Central School of Education. Before teaching at the Academy, Mrs. Litvin was a computer science professor at Boston University. During one of her classes at BU, she met former Andover faculty member George Best, who encouraged her to apply for a teaching position at PA.