By JENIBELLE HSU
Who is your most memorable high-school teacher?
“My favorite teacher [in high school] was Mr. Ferguson, my U.S. History teacher in 9th grade. He was also Fergie’s dad! For the first time, I had a teacher who told me that I was smart, and no teacher ever told me that. He [sparked my interest in] history and [suggested that] I was smart enough to be a teacher. I admire his discipline, because kids actually paid attention. I try to emulate that [because] I want kids to have fun, but when I want kids to be quiet, listen and do their work, I expect them to do that.”
How did you develop a passion for history?
“[My high school history teacher] connected me to history on a universal level, where he would bring in real-life situations and make [history] more practical. In college, I majored in history, [because] I loved taking history classes and looking at different [perspectives]. I liked how [my Reconstruction Era professor] correlated the past [with] the present, [which inspired] me do the same thing [in my classes]. [I also] liked another professor who talked about Alexander the Great and ancient civilizations. He brought out different perspectives correlating medieval history and modern history.”
What is the most challenging part of teaching social science?
“I meet a lot of adults who love history, but it is hard to relay how important it is to teenagers. Some of you will take these classes again [in college] and get it more, but not everybody is going take economics ever again. This is my one chance to teach people about taxes or demand, [which are] things that matter to us as consumers and taxpayers. There are a lot of experiences you guys have not had yet, but I will [often say] ‘ask your parents about this’ or ‘when you are working, you will have to deal with this.’ I try to find a way for you guys to see that this does matter.”
How did you decide to become a history teacher?
“I come from a family of teachers: my mom was an elementary school teacher, my dad was a history college professor and my sister teaches english. I tried to fight it, so I went to college [hoping that] I would [become] something different. There was a moment when I was [about] to be hired as a probation officer. There was a run-over-the-mill, knucklehead kid [who] was being put in prison sitting across from me. We talked a little bit, and I began to realize that [being a probation officer] was the opposite of what I wanted to be at that time. I feel like I could do more good in my classroom, intervening and providing insight, rather than [thinking] it is too late.”
What is your best and worst college professor story?
“One of my worst college professor stories was during my sophomore year in college. I was accused of plagiarism by my professor in a writing class because he said that the quality of my essay was too good, so it was a publishable content. I was vindicated, and later on, he realized that I was capable after seeing my writing. I was majoring in engineering, and I took a elective class on American Civil Liberties taught by a professor who taught the class using the socratic method. It was invigorating to be engage in discussions, and it affected me so much that I ended up switching my major to political science. I got my law degree and became an attorney after passing the bar exam.”
What is your most memorable college encounter with a college professor?
“I had a Biola University professor, Dr. Virginia Ramos, who, from among all her students, nominated me for a one-year teaching fellowship in China, all expenses paid. I will never forget her telling the class about the cross-cultural teaching and traveling opportunity, and then announcing me as one of two recipients for the fellowship. That fellowship would eventually lead me to meet my wife in China in 1999, and [we] got married and had children a few years later. Dr. Ramos set in motion a chain of events for me that I could not then foresee, but that I now look back on with much amazement and gratitude.”
Ms. Van Gorden
What is the funniest moment with your student(s) from your years of teaching here?
“[In] my first year, I was an English teacher. There was a male student in one of my 9th grade classes who, apparently, wasn’t paying particularly close attention in class and distracted himself by straightening a paperclip and inserting it into the outlet next to his desk. I heard a pop and this student screamed. When I turned around and asked him what had happened, he stood up, told me what he had done and asked to go to the restroom. The paperclip arched from the electricity and fused itself to the zipper on his pants! He was embarrassed and the class was roaring with laughter.”
What is the hardest class that you took in college?
“It was my political science class, [because] it had lots of writing, and [as] a young kid, I had a lot of trouble with the concepts of government. [At my] university, you get a midterm, a final and a ten-page paper, so if you mess up one of them, you are in a lot of trouble. [My professor] was tough, but good. We could go in and make an appointment with him, and he would work with us. One thing about professors is that they love to help out, except in gigantic universities where you cannot get to [them]. I went to a smaller college, so [getting help] was not a problem.”
What is the funniest thing that your students did to you from your years of teaching here?
Just a recent one that pops into my head was when one of my smaller classes had shifted from one side of the classroom to another, to sit all together in one side. I walked in, and [I] just get caught up in the moment [since it was] the end of the day. [When] I went up to take roll and looked up, everybody was giggling. It took me about a minute or so to settle in and look around and go, all right.