Mother of seven, Puyallup City Councilmember, adjunct math professor at Pierce College, Cynthia Jacobsen could also rightly be called a master juggler. Luckily, she has the energy and enthusiasm to keep up with her demanding schedule.
“I love the mission of Pierce College,” Jacobsen says. “We take students where they are and help them move forward in their lives. It’s a privilege to help them advance towards their goals.”
Her affection for Pierce College is not just theoretical—she sent all seven of her children to Pierce, after home-schooling them for many years. Now, ages 20-33, most of her children have graduated from four-year colleges and are working in high-demand fields including software engineering, occupational therapy and civil engineering.
“Pierce College was the best choice ever for my kids,” she says. “All of them say the classes they took at Pierce prepared them very well for their four-year colleges.”
For the past seven years, Jacobsen has served as an adjunct professor at Pierce College Puyallup, where she teaches pre-college math – Math 96 (Math in Context) and other courses. For some students, this involves helping them overcome their fear of math so they can be successful in college and beyond.
“Some students have been traumatized by math in the past,” Jacobsen says. “I can relate, because I’ve been the one in the back of the class crying about math before. I show them that if they put in the work, they can succeed. I help them build confidence.”
Jacobsen proudly points out that Math 96 is a “different kind” of math class. “We work in groups. No one is allowed to say ‘I’m bad in math.’ There are many resources like tutoring and online feedback on their homework that are available to help students.”
Jacobsen’s path to becoming a teacher wasn’t a straightforward one. After years at home raising her family, she went back to school and earned a master’s degree in accounting from Central Washington University, with the goal of getting a full-time job. But re-entering the workforce in her ‘50s turned out to be difficult.
“I couldn’t get a job to save my life,” she says. “I finally got hired part-time at Green River Community College teaching introductory computer classes—to people like me needing to re-enter the workforce. I enjoyed it, but math is my passion so I jumped at the chance to teach here at Pierce College.”
Her job has the added benefit of being just ten minutes from her home. Jacobsen and her family have lived in Puyallup for 30 years.
“We love living in Puyallup,” she says. “Puyallup has been very good to me and my family.”
With a desire to give back to her community and a longstanding interest in politics, Jacobsen ran for Puyallup City Council in 2017 and won by 13 votes. She began serving in Jan. 2018.
“My issues are frugality with the city budget, public safety and infrastructure,” she says. “Right now, I’m going through my first city budget cycle and I love it. What can I say? The City Council is mostly math in a real-world context.”
As if her life weren’t busy enough, Jacobsen wants to continue taking classes with the goal of expanding her teaching career to college-level math classes. She hopes her journey can inspire students in their own career pursuits. Although her original goal was to find a full-time accounting job, she would not change how things have worked out.
“I tell people I have two part-time, full-time jobs,” she says with a laugh. “And I love both of them.”
Reprinted, with permission, from the Pierce College website.