The Voice: Summer 2001

The Voice

Four long-time faculty members retire

Joanne Alberda
Joanne Alberda

    Thirty-four years ago, Joanne Alberda, then an elementary school teacher, was recruited to teach an art education course at Dordt for elementary school teachers. She never returned to the elementary school classroom. That course led to a more general art appreciation course and in 1976, after completing her master's degree, Alberda signed on full-time.
    “I was teaching three sections of art education at one point,” she said. It was the only art course available in those early years in Dordt's history. Anyone with an interest in art took the course, and there were many.
    By 1974, the college hired its first full-time art professor, Norm Matheis, paving the way for an art major. When Alberda joined him as a full-time instructor in 1976, there were fewer than ten art majors. Today that number has increased to nearly sixty.
    Alberda has taught a wide range of courses over the years, some of which have come and gone from her load as the department expanded or as faculty members changed. Art education has remained solidly hers, as have photography and fibers. Others she's cheerfully given up to someone else, even though she would love to have kept them-especially ceramics.
    Design theory, printmaking, painting, and GEN 200-the general education arts course required of all students-have also been part of her load.
    “I've loved every one of them when I was teaching them,” she says, although she hedges a bit on GEN 200. Students who decide they don't want to take a required course can make a teacher's life stressful and unpleasant at times, she acknowledges.
    But that's never been the case in her art department courses.
    “Freshmen sometimes lack discipline, but I've learned to be patient. They either learn to take responsibility or they're gone.”
    When asked to pick her favorite class, Alberda immediately says American Art History, then pauses and adds photography-and ceramics-and art education. She claims she knew nothing about art history when she first started teaching the course but admits she was gratified that years later, when she confessed that fact to an art alum, she replied, “You fooled us.”
    Art history has continued to be one of her joys as she has developed the four-course sequence over the years.
    “It's so much fun to teach a new course,” she says. “You learn so many new things and get so many new ideas for other courses.” She is still excited about all she learned this year in the new non-Western art course she and colleague Susan Van Geest offered last semester_ her last new course in her last year of full-time teaching. And she's come to appreciate greatly what she learns from students. Senior art students and those from other majors who take art courses as electives have taught her a great deal through their participation and papers, she says.
    The addition of graphic arts to the major has ballooned the department. The faculty decided early on to keep a fine arts focus in the graphics program. She is convinced it was a good decision and tells of a recent graduate who sent her portfolio with her job application and resume. “The employer was impressed,” she says. The alum got the job.
    Alberda hopes to simplify her life a bit in retirement, but the list of things she hopes to do makes one wonder if she will. She will continue to teach the art education course next year, and     she looks forward to more quilting-especially dying her own fabrics, getting back to painting, dabbling in ceramics again, and starting a local photography club. She won't miss grading papers, but she will miss looking at student projects.
    “Teaching is so stimulating,” she says. “It's made my life wonderful.”

George Faber
George Faber

    Dr. George Faber has seen and helped bring about a variety of changes in the education department in the twenty-six years he's served there. The biggest one is likely increasing the number of weeks required for student teaching from six to thirteen. But other changes have also come about. One thing Faber did in his first semester was organize a mini-teaching experience for sophomores in the program. Education 104, as it was called, put students into classrooms early in their college career to give them a better feel for teaching.
    “We anticipated that the state requirements would mandate such an experience, and they soon did,” Faber says. Later, the state also required a second mini-teaching experience, which for years allowed students to spend time in classrooms in their home schools during college break. Faber also helped introduce the option of off-campus student teaching to give students more possibilities for placement and to ease the load on local schools.
    Also during Faber's tenure the state began to require that education faculty spend time in elementary or secondary classrooms at least forty hours every five years, and that education programs set up community advisory committees to give feedback to the schools.
    Faber believes these, too, were good changes, but he says they greatly increased the department's work load. Another change begun this year will require even more administrative time: students must now pass a standardized test before they can be admitted into the
program. Administering such a test adds several hours to already busy schedules, Faber says.
    Over the years Faber has taught a variety of introductory education courses and done a considerable amount of administering for the program, but his area of specialty was teaching future teachers how to teach science. He says he tried to emphasize a hands-on approach rather than a textbook approach.
    “Science is studying God's creation, not studying a textbook,” he says. “Natural science is a wonderful discipline and offers so many opportunities for concrete learning, yet is often one of the weaker areas in the elementary curriculum because so much emphasis is placed on language and mathematics,” he says. He enjoyed encouraging teachers to explore hand-on learning.
    But probably the favorite part of his job over the years has been supervising student teachers, he says. Getting into classrooms has almost always been enjoyable. And student teachers are usually eager to discuss what they have been doing well and what they can do better.
    “It's much different than introductory classrooms where students don't see the whole picture and so are less disciplined and less open to suggestion,” he says. “During student teaching they are making the transition from student to teacher, and it's exciting to watch.”
    Faber estimates he has supervised about 300 student teachers during his time at Dordt.
“Lots of good students stand out in my mind,” he says, but what was especially gratifying was to see how much they matured from the freshman year to the senior year. Some of those students are now master teachers, he says.
    Throughout his career at Dordt, Faber has also served in a number of state positions. He spent three years as a state evaluator of teacher training programs. He also served on the board of trustees of the Iowa Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and on the local Community Education Committee. He has been director of the teacher education program since 1992.
    Although Faber says he entertained the question of what it might be like to do something else at one point in his career, he's been happy working with future teachers.
    “Teaching makes you a more understanding and compassionate person and a better listener,” he believes.

Case Boot
Case Boot

    Teaching at Dordt College was the second career for Dr. Kornelis Boot. He first worked as a baker for several years, before coming to Dordt as a mature student with a wife and children. After receiving his master's degree, he returned to Dordt in 1969 to teach German, later earning his Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Stoneybrook. Over the years he has taught German, Dutch, linguistics, ESL, language methods courses, and in recent years in the Netherlands, Dutch culture.
    Born in Holland, Boot says having to teach Dutch filled him with fear and trembling at first. “I had never looked at my own language from a foreign language point of view,” he says now, looking back. But his language training and his natural abilities as a teacher, as well as his story telling ability, carried him through. By the time he retired he was no longer teaching German, but he was teaching Dutch and linguistics as well as coordinating an off-campus study program in the Netherlands.
    Many things have changed in the thirty-two years Boot has taught in the foreign language department. The number of instructors who teach German has dropped from four to one. The foreign language requirement has changed from four semesters to three as part of a cross-cultural requirement. And the methods of teaching are significantly different. Students today no longer learn by rote memorization as much as by speaking the language, he says.
    “Students today don't know how good they have it because they don't know how it was done in the past,” Boot says, adding that students who go on off-campus study programs usually find that they can communicate better and more quickly with the new approach.
    Boot says he has enjoyed the range of his teaching assignments over the years, which demanded both the detailed memorization needed to understand how language works in Linguistics 201 and the broad understanding of people and culture needed to run the Netherlands Studies Program in Contemporary Europe (N- SPICE).
    “My training in linguistics helped me to teach pronunciation better, because it was easy for me to hear when students were forming their sounds incorrectly,” he says. Telling students when to round their lips or when to put their tongue in a different position helped them learn the language more easily. And learning the language helped students be better understood and consequently better able to experience the culture.     Boot has wonderful memories of N-SPICE partly because he so enjoyed sharing his native culture, partly because he was able to share the experience with his wife, Aly, and partly because it gave him an opportunity to get to know students in a different way.
    “Sharing one's culture with others is a gratifying experience,” he says, adding, “Did you know that Dutch people eat more in public than Americans- chomping on fish or a sandwich or a croquette on the run. But they think that coffee or soda is something to sit and drink. Americans don't expect people to chew a sandwich on the run, but are accustomed to people who walk, drive, and attend class with a drink in hand.”
    Boot is grateful for the opportunity he's had to work with and learn from students. He's been impressed with their commitment to sharing their faith as they worked with Youth with a Mission in Amsterdam, and their openness to talking about and sharing their faith and its struggles while living together on the program. He's grateful that he's been able to mentor students in his office and in the Netherlands. He'll miss those things-and even making and grading tests. But not committee meetings, he says. “I get too impatient with things that take too long. I like to see results-something he attributes to his business experience. But the impatience never extended to his students, who he will remember fondly in his heart and memories.

Willis Alberda
Willis Alberda

Dr. Willis Alberda has served at Dordt College as long as anyone. Arriving as a fresh-out-of- graduate-school mathematics professor in 1964, he has held a range of faculty and academic administrative positions in his thirty-seven years on campus. He's seen many changes over the years and, in fact, has changed a great deal himself, too.
    In his early years as a math professor, Alberda says he “taught like he was taught.”
    “You went to the blackboard and wrote as fast and as much as you could.” Students were expected to do the same.
    “We didn't think a lot about whether what we were saying was getting into their heads.” The instructor provided the information, students were responsible for absorbing it-or as Alberda says, “Students were the blank slate upon which we wrote the information.”
    Today his emphasis is almost the direct opposite. Instead of focusing on memorization of formulas and proofs, Alberda emphasizes application and student response-especially in the statistics course he teaches. Students learn better when they see how and why math is useful in real situations, he believes. That's why he had his students go to local businesses, gather data related to their operations, and make presentations to
their classmates on what they learned.
    Alberda's area of expertise as a beginning teacher was statistics, but he says it's been hard to keep up with reading and research in both an academic area and on administrative issues. He opted for administration in the early eighties.
    He did continue to teach one course each semester, however, to keep in touch with the classroom, faculty, and students.
    In the seventies he served as one of six division deans while teaching nearly a full load. After the administration was restructured in 1983, he became one of three deans, his responsibility being the natural science division. Since then three-quarters of his time has been spent on administrative duties.
    Although Alberda says that in some ways he enjoyed teaching more than being an administrator, some of his best memories are tied to his administrative duties and responsibilities. Top on the list of good experiences is the opportunity he had to help set up a computer science program. He helped the college apply for its first Title III grant to acquire computers for the college. He was also responsible for setting up early practicums for computer science majors.
    “Students really got a minimal background in computer science in their classes in those early years, but they learned so much by going out to work with local businesses, helping them set up computers for their business,” he says.
    Alberda admits that the timing was perfect for those students. It was during the years that small businesses and organizations were just beginning to install their own computer systems. They needed any help they could get and students needed opportunities to put what they were learning to work.
    “That experience influenced my thinking about how to teach,” Alberda says. Students used what they had learned and came back with lots of questions to figure out how to solve problems they had encountered in the business.
    “There was a huge difference between those students who worked with a local business and those who didn't,” Alberda said. That experience also piqued his interest in service learning as a component of the educational program. For the past several years he has worked to encourage a stronger service learning component in Dordt's curriculum.
    Alberda is looking forward to the next stage in his life, which he expects to include lots of volunteer work. “I've got information on many possibilities on my desk now to decide where I should commit,” he says, adding that although he is retiring, he has lots of energy left to serve in other ways.

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