Dr. Donald Franks, mathematics, doesn’t leave math in the classroom. His vehicle, a Chrysler Crossfire, is decorated with math-themed decals. Franks has been named among the top ranked professors in the nation on RateMyProfessors.
by Gene Axton
editor in chief
MTVU’s RateMyProfessors.com, a website used by college students to recommend professors to others, has named two California University of Pennsylvania educators in its annual top 25 university professors list.
Dr. Donald Franks was ranked number 17 on the list. Dr. Franks taught mathematics at Albert Gallatin Area High School in Uniontown, Pa. prior to accepting positions at Penn State Fayette and Waynesburg College. Dr. Franks has been a part of the faculty at Cal U since the mid ‘90s.
“When I first looked at it I thought it was in the state of Pennsylvania,” Dr. Franks said. “I read it a little further and it said nationwide. I thought something might be wrong here [but] after that people started approaching me and telling me they saw it. I’m really honored. I sent it to my cousin in New York and I gave it to a couple other people. One guy in Carmichaels said, ‘they oughta clone you.’”
Dr. Franks grew up in Masontown, Pa. and resides there today. He followed in the footsteps of his father by becoming a math teacher and football coach. He uses his experience on the gridiron to encourage his students.
“You might not understand right away but if you stick with me and do what I ask you to do I’m sure you’re going to catch on to it. I say, ‘you gotta practice every night. The Steelers don’t just show up on Sunday and look at who they’re playing today.’”
Dr. Franks’ brother and sister are also teachers. This family investment in the profession has given him motivation to reach out to future educators.
“I teach math classes for [future] elementary school teachers. [They’re] supposed to portray the fact that math is not that bad thing that everybody talks about. Too many teachers leave here and portray that to their students. They hate math so the student hates math. I always tell my classes that we don’t have to be miserable to learn.”
The classroom is still an exciting place for Dr. Franks. He says that he enjoys it when students ask questions because that means he has them involved in the class. There is one question he’s not very fond of though.
“’When are we gonna use this’ is getting to be an old question. Once they get to a certain age they realize they do use this stuff. One time I was teaching in the Upward Bound program down here and a kid asked me when they were going to use this. One of the other students spoke up and said, ‘don’t you know that’s an impolite question? You don’t ask questions like that anymore.’”
Dr. Franks is returning to Waynesburg College as a professor in the spring. He will also continue to teach at Cal U.
Dr. Debra Farrer ranked sixth on Ratemyprofessors.com’s list. Dr. Farrer began her teaching career in Tucker county, W. Va., as an elementary teacher. She taught classes in early childhood and elementary education at Cal U from 1990 until the end of the summer 2013 semester.
“[Head of university public relations] Kris Kindl sent me an email. I have Facebook and Twitter [but] I’ve never had time for those things. I didn’t even know [Ratemyprofessors.com] existed. I did look at it because, goodness, I’d have to look at it with something like that!”
Dr. Farrer resides in Washington, Pa., but she maintains a cabin in the hills of West Virginia. Since retiring from higher education, Dr. Farrer spends her time volunteering at a local food pantry and a hospice. She also enjoys spending time with her faith community and her family.
Ratemyprofessors.com is owned and operated by MTV’s college network, mtvU. The site consists entirely of student-generated ratings of current or former professors featuring more than 8,000 schools, 1.8 million professors and 15 million ratings. RateMyProfessors.com reaches 6 million college students on average each month.
Other top-rated professors from Cal U include Chad Kauffman in Earth science and Emily Sweitzer in psychology.