Staff Writer—Caleb Pollema
What department do you teach in at Dordt?
“I teach in the Math and Statistics department.”
Where did you attend college and get your degrees at?
“I did my undergraduate at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. After that I spent four years as a high school math teacher. Then I went back to graduate school at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and did my PhD there.”
When did you decide on a major in college?
“I sort of have always liked math, but in high school I really liked physics. I had a really great physics teacher. When I went to college, I started out as a double major in math and physics. I ended up taking both Calculus and physics. Then in college, I didn’t end up liking physics. It just felt a lot different than how my high school physics was, but I loved my Calculus class. I felt like what I enjoyed doing was more the math, so I stopped the physics and just stayed with the math major. I guess I kind of figured it out in the first semester, but I had an idea already.”
Did you have any jobs prior to coming to Dordt?
“I taught high school math at Santa Fe Christian, in the San Diego area. Then I moved to Visalia and taught at a public school called El Diamante High School. I taught there for three years and my wife taught at Central Valley Christian High School… This was my first job after grad school.”
What made you decide to come and teach at Dordt?
“My wife went to Dordt and I went to Calvin, so we have always been sort of rivals. I love the idea of teaching at a Christian college where I can bring my faith into my teaching. Every year there are only so many jobs that get posted. I saw the job at Dordt and I thought that it would be pretty cool. I ended up applying here and I grew up in southern Minnesota, so it’s actually close to family so that was pretty good as well. It all worked out—[and] this is my fourth year [at Dordt].”
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
“My favorite class is differential equations which I teach every fall. I love that class because it’s what my PhD was in. It’s a class where I feel like I have a lot to say. It is an interesting course because you spend a whole year doing all of this calculus and then it all pays off. You get to do applications and you can see the hands-on things that you can do with differential equations. They are so applicable in many different ways. It seems like the students in that class get into it as well. They are willing to do the work and then they are interested in it. It feels like everybody is having fun, but also learning a lot.”
Are there any new classes or developments coming to the Math Department at Dordt?
“We are always up for looking at new things. This special topics course that I am teaching on linear algebra is being discussed as becoming a regular course. As computers become more and more important, linear algebra becomes more and more important. That is a class we could think about continuing. The actuarial science program is always changing things at the national level which affects which classes we teach and the exams. We are trying to stay up to date as things. We are looking at how we teach the classes we have always taught, but also if we need to change the program. We look at our vision, our goals, what our website looks like. We are always working on those things. Also, the NOYCE grant has been going now and that will continue happening and hopefully bring new opportunities.”
Are you married, and do you have any kids?
“My wife’s name is Ruth. We have three kids: Lydia, William, and Lewis. Lydia is in kindergarten. William is in preschool, and Lewis is almost two.”
What are your hobbies outside of teaching?
“My number one hobby is playing board games. The latest game I got is a game called Scythe. It is an interesting game that is half Risk with armies moving around and half an economy game. You are trying to produce resources and build buildings and stuff. It is probably 25 percent military and 75 percent building your economy up to allow you to have other things. It is kind of a deep game. Every time you play you figure out that you have to try something new. So, it’s really fun. The other game is Pandemic Legacy. It’s a legacy game which means that every time you play it the board changes. You put stickers on the board, so it is constantly being changed from game to game. It feels like you are telling a story with the game. It’s like you are actually curing diseases and you have your character that changes over time. It feels like a narrative.”
What is your favorite part of Dordt College?
“It’s definitely teaching. There’s lots of good things about Dordt. There are always things going on and I like my colleagues, but I feel like that time in the classroom with the students is my favorite part of my job. I like watching students learn and helping them learn by giving them challenging problems, so they have to work at it. I really like doing that and being a part of that.”