USD alum finds home at SDSU

Adam Junker

New math professor Carri Hales has always been passionate about teaching. Her passion came at an early age, while growing up in Parker, S.D. It is an inspiration she still remembers


“My parents talk about my sixth birthday when I woke up and sat on the couch and said I was going to be a teacher,” Hales said. “And I’ve never wanted to be anything else.“

“Sometimes I would make my younger brother sit in a desk, and I made him do math problems. Then, I would grade them. It’s a memory he still doesn’t like to this day.”

Hales enjoys the SDSU campus and Brookings community, and she finds collaborating with co-workers exciting.

Question: What is your prior education and experience before landing at SDSU?

Answer: I received my undergraduate degree for math education at USD. They have a program called the Professional Development Center Program, in which you go and teach in a school for a year while the teachers you replaced in that spot are getting their master’s. So, I finished mine in one year, with secondary education in curriculum and instruction. After that year, I started teaching in Yankton and was there for 12 years, teaching math and physical science. During that time, I got my second master’s in mathematics from the university. And now I’m here.

Q:  You mentioned wanting to become a teacher when you were six. Did the inspiration just come to you?

A: I enjoyed going to school. When I was a kindergartener, you know, that was probably it: you love school and that whole type of thing. And I don’t know if that was just the influence. But that whole early experience is what I really liked.

Q: Were there any outside influences in your wanting to become a teacher?

A: Oh, yeah. Through K-12 and through college, there were different teachers who would teach a certain way, and I would be like, ‘Oh, that was really cool.’ The method they would use for their instruction and I would be, like, ‘Wow, I really understood that myself.’ Or, I’d see how they interacted with other students. There’s a ton of them who all made me who I am.

Q: What got you interested in math education?

A: Actually, when I started college I wanted to go into elementary education. I started out and after my first year of college, I had already gone through Calculus II. My advisor said, ‘You know, have you ever thought about teaching math?’ And I really hadn’t thought about doing that, of doing something specific. But then I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I kind of like it.’ So that gave me the thought of going into math education. My instructor said, ‘Well, we’ll try this next year, see what you think.’ So, I hadn’t planned on it, but I kind of fell into it.

Q: What brought you to SDSU?

A: I really liked the college atmosphere, but I didn’t want to go straight into teaching at college. I wanted to go teach at the high school level. But I worked my way up and started looking at different campuses. I knew I wanted to stay close by my hometown. That was the limitation I set for myself. Then, I saw an opening at SDSU and thought it fit very well in what I was doing. That is what brought me here.

Q: What was preparation like for you before the start of the semester?

A: I didn’t get hired until July. I didn’t move until the first part of August. I had never been to Brookings and the SDSU campus. So, being from USD, it was something else to try to find everything, like where buildings were, where to park, and all those things. It was quite a lot to get acquainted to.

Q: What is your impression of Brookings so far?

A: This is a welcoming and friendly community, wherever you go. The aesthetics of the community are very welcoming. Driving around with all the gorgeous flowers and everything to see, it just makes you feel at home. All the people I have met on campus so far have been very helpful.

Q: What do you think of the SDSU campus?

A: It’s been different. I was used to a very compact walking campus. So, here, where it’s more spread out, that took a lot of getting used to. You’re going: OK, is it going to be faster to walk this way? Or, should I drive? Am I going to be able to find a parking spot? Which lots can I park in? That was a little different for me than it just being a walking campus. Like, with USD, once on campus you’re on campus and you know where to go. But here, it’s like hmm, OK, which way should I do this? (Laughs) It’s going to be quite a time this winter.

Q: What’s it like working with the faculty, especially with your fellow math lab instructors?

A: It’s been great for me coming in and being able to have so many people that I can go and talk with. It’s been quite a great collaboration, making sure [class] is successful. In Yankton, we did a computer based recovery credit program, so I’ve been used to having computer-based programs. That helps a lot with the stuff you run into, with the classes here.