By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–In 1963, Alan Zollman was one of only eight students in the graduating class of Lanesville Elementary School.
So it was with a sense of wonder–along with awe and no small amount of terror–that he walked through the doors of the imposing new Floyd Central High School, where his class numbered 180.
“I was lost how to get around and walk among so many people,” Zollman said.
Once a deer in the headlights, Zollman can now bask in the limelight as an inductee into the FCHS Alumni Hall of Fame.
After graduation, Zollman volunteered for the Peace Corps, taught middle- and high-school math, and attended college. As a professor of mathematics education at Bowling Green State University, University of Kentucky, and Northern Illinois University, he prepared hundreds of future teachers and professors.
He returned to his Southern Indiana roots in 2014, joining the faculty of IU Southeast, where he has trained over 200 secondary teachers, ten of whom teach at FCHS.
Zollman has received numerous international, national, state, and local teaching, research and service awards for his work in STEM Education, including mathematics education awards from the Kentucky Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics. He also has earned undergraduate teaching awards from Northern Illinois University and, in 2018, from the Greater Louisville Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
He has also served in key leadership positions, including as president of the School Science and Mathematics Association, vice president of the Research Council on Mathematics Learning, and founding president of the Kentucky Association of College Mathematics Educators.
Since arriving at IU Southeast Zollman has contributed 25 publications and 33 national and international presentations, giving him more than 70 of the former and more than 80 of the latter over the course of his career.
In 2020 he received a Senior Distinguished Research and Creativity Award. His work on STEM grants has benefited IU Southeast science education students to the tune of over half a million dollars.
As an educator of educators, Zollman has always managed to balance subject-matter expertise with the human touch, symbolized by the red clown’s nose he puts on before Commencement, to help his colleagues loosen up before that solemn occasion.
More importantly, he remembers what it was like to be a farm kid entering high school, and then college. It helps him connect with students today. Though there are fewer high schoolers from the farm today, farm values abide in many ways.
“The one thing about growing up with farm ethics is having persistence—you don’t stop in a field because it gets dark or rains or you are tired, you stop when the field work is done,” Zollman said. “This prepared me to learn how to learn.”
And that shiny new high school? It’s still imposing, but is known more for the quality of its instruction–another lesson that stuck with Zollman, and continues to influence his approach.
“It’s not the building nor the program that counts, it’s the rapport you have with the teacher,” Zollman said. “Teachers respected and trusted me, and I respected and trusted them.”