In Praise of Exceptional Teaching: Two ESG Math Lecturers Retiring

In Praise of Exceptional Teaching: Two ESG Math Lecturers Retiring

Dr. Gabrielle Stoy and Dr. Jerry Orloff, the Experimental Study Group’s (ESG) long-time math lecturers, will retire at the end of this year. Over their two decades at ESG, Gabrielle and Jerry have taught and advised hundreds of ESG first-year students and mentored many undergraduate teaching assistants (TAs), shaping the first-year experience. They have advanced ESG’s educational mission of small-class learning, helping students explore their academic passions, and experimenting with innovative ways to teach MIT’s core curriculum. As ESG TA Titus Roesler ’25  states,  “Anyone who has taken a math class in ESG knows and would whole-heartedly agree that they are exceptionally well-taught, and that is all thanks to Gabrielle and Jerry’s tireless dedication to their students.”

Gabrielle earned a doctorate and taught math as a tenured faculty member at Oxford University. Her mathematical interests are in group theory, and she co-authored the book Groups and Geometry. She joined ESG in 2006 and has taught single- and multivariable calculus and experimented with the teaching of those subjects for nearly 18 years. Much beloved by her students, advisees, and TAs, Gabrielle has helped countless ESG first years adjust to MIT, both academically and socially.

Naomi Schurr ’14 states, “Gabrielle’s calm patience, dedication, and caring in one-on-one sessions guided me to understand the material, gain confidence in my abilities, and feel like I belonged.”  In 2023 Gabrielle’s advising and mentoring was honored with the Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Office of the First Year. Joel Schneider ‘15 reflected on the impact of her mentoring on his experience at MIT and beyond: “Gabrielle changed the trajectory of my life and cared more about mentoring me than any teacher I’ve ever had. She tapped into my passions, opened a world of exploration in true ESG-fashion, and humanized learning in a way I’ll always try to share in turn with my own students too.”

Jerry earned his PhD in math at MIT, studying under Sigurdur Helgason on harmonic analysis on symmetric spaces. He joined ESG in 2002 and has instilled a love of learning math for many MIT students. “Jerry is one of the most influential teachers I’ve had – certainly the most influential figure in my MIT education” writes Amanda Turk ’12, adding: “He was patient, dynamic, and creative in his approach to teaching my freshman differential equations course – which is, to this day, still my favorite math class.” Jerry’s influence on TAs and future teachers is profound, as Amanda notes, “In the three years that I TA’d for him, I had the privilege of discussing his approach to teaching, observing as he evolved his course to better meet student needs, and watching as he worked with dozens of students; it was an experience that developed in me an enduring love for the craft and the calling of teaching.” Jerry has developed many tools to help with teaching across the math curriculum, both at ESG and in the math department. He most recently won the 2021 Teaching with Digital Technology Award at MIT.

We wish both Gabrielle and Jerry the best of luck and know that they will be missed by everyone who has had the good fortune to connect with them while they have taught at ESG and MIT.  As Titus notes, “There’s no need to compute a triple integral to quantify how much we respect and admire them both; by inspection, as a mathematician might say, the vast number of their former students who happily return as teaching assistants term after term to help uphold that tradition of excellence for each new cohort of first-year students already speaks volumes.”

— Bettina McGimsey, ESG