Dr. Kevin Voogt grew up in Wisconsin before heading to Michigan for college. He spent the next few years teaching in New Mexico, Florida, Wisconsin, and then settled down in Texas before coming back to Michigan to work on his Ph.D in mathematics education. After living in six different states, God directed Voogt to a seventh — Indiana. Funny enough, when Voogt started looking for jobs, he said to himself, “Anywhere but Illinois and Indiana.” But God had other plans, and after two weeks, the Voogt family already loves it here!
Read on to learn more about the newest assistant professor of education in Grace’s School of Education and the journey that led him to Grace!
1. Why did you decide to go into the field of education?
Well, I’ve always had a love for mathematics. After one semester as a mathematics major in undergrad, I decided I did not want to get a master’s or doctorate in math right away, so I decided to become a secondary mathematics education major because at the time, I wasn’t sure what else I could do with a math major. During my first semester, I was placed at an inner-city school in Grand Rapids where I found that I loved tutoring the students (in all subjects, but especially in math). They would thank me for helping them understand something for the first time in their lives, and it was really rewarding. Even after student teaching, I was unsure I wanted to teach, but I also wanted to work for a bit before going back to school for a master’s or doctorate degree. After a few years of really struggling and trying to leave the profession, I fell in love with it and ended up teaching high school mathematics for eight years before pursuing my Ph.D. in mathematics education.
2. Walk me through your higher education journey. Where did you attend undergraduate and graduate school? What were your degrees in?
I attended undergrad at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I majored in secondary mathematics education and minored in German. I started my master’s in mathematics education at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, but I found that the Ph.D. programs I was interested in did not require a master’s for admission (due to my extensive teaching history). So I only did a year of my master’s before opting to save the money and apply to the Ph.D. program in mathematics education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.
3. Tell us a little about your family.
My wife’s name is Haylee. She is a professional dancer (modern, contemporary) and dance instructor (teaches ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, and more) with a heart and passion for dance ministry and using dance to glorify God. We met in Texas while I was teaching and she was directing a studio and dancing professionally in Houston. We have 2 children – our son, Micah, who is 6 and going into 1st grade and our daughter, Naomi, who just turned 4. Micah enjoys playing all sports, especially ice hockey, and Naomi loves dance more than anything (just like her momma).
4. What courses will you be teaching at Grace? Which course is most exciting to you and why?
This year, I will be teaching Math for Elementary Education Teachers, Responsive and Differentiated Instruction, Secondary Methods of Math, Methods of Teaching Elementary Mathematics, and Teaching in a Pluralistic Society. I’m most excited about Math for Elementary Education Teachers because I really enjoyed teaching a similar course at MSU during my doctoral program. I always enjoy teaching math, and I will have the opportunity to really make the course my own. That said, I am very excited about all of my other courses, too, as I really enjoy the diversity of opportunities and the opportunity to teach some courses that connect to some of my general education passions, too.
5. Tell us about your experiences in mathematics education.
I was a high school math teacher for eight years, all in public schools. The first year was split between Gallup, New Mexico, and Boca Raton, Florida. The second year was in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I wanted to travel and so I took some interim positions that took me all over. Then, I decided to settle down and taught the last six years of my high school teaching career in a very large, diverse school in Katy, Texas. During my six years of my Ph.D. program, I had some teaching assistantships where I taught a few courses of Mathematics for Elementary Teachers, taught or co-taught three of the four Secondary Methods of Mathematics Teaching courses offered at MSU, and assisted in teaching a History of Mathematics course for elementary teachers. I also had a year of field instruction with prospective secondary math teachers during their student teaching year. This position at Grace is my first post-Ph.D. program position, and I’m very excited to get started.
6. How does your faith inform your approach as a math teacher?
I saw teaching in public schools as my mission field. While I could not overtly talk about God and the relationships between mathematics and the beauty and complexity of His creation in my classroom, I was always open about my faith with my students and how it informed my decisions in life. I would open my classroom for after-school Bible studies or worship meetings. I would talk to students about their faith and support them as they tried to live it out in a secular school setting. When our house was robbed in Texas, I shared with my students that I’m not concerned about “getting” those who did it, but that I was more concerned about what their lives must be like for them to have done what they did. That stuff was just stuff, and that I had forgiven them and was praying for them in response. That response caused a lot of students to come and talk to me about why and how I could react that way. It gave me a platform for discussing my faith. Here at Grace, I will, for the first time, have a chance to integrate my faith into teaching courses, and I am so excited to not only share my experiences in the “mission field” but also discuss why and how we show God’s love to our students. I’m excited to help prospective teachers understand that as image-bearers of Christ, we have a unique opportunity to model Christ’s love and grace for our students — impacting their lives for the better.
7. Male educators are few and far between — especially in elementary education. Why are male teachers important?
Men and women are both vitally important to education. I have encountered many students who don’t have a male role model in their lives and hence, they latched onto me as someone they could come to and talk to about things they would normally talk to their dad about. The same goes for females in education — we are children’s parents away from home and for many, we are their only stable relationship. I hope that I can support both my male and female prospective teachers in their understanding that they can give students grace, that they can be a place of love and stability, and that they can facilitate a sense of family during the day when they may not have that feeling at home.
8. What would you say is the single-most important quality for a teacher to have to be equipped for the classroom today?
I don’t want to sound cliche here, but I think showing students grace is the most important quality a teacher can have — especially for my reasons listed above about students’ family lives. Many students are not shown grace and are not given second chances at home or with their friends. They tend to respond positively to someone who is willing to listen, show them God’s love and forgiveness, and give them a second chance when they make a mistake. This goes a long way toward building a positive classroom environment (which makes teaching much easier in the end).
9. What are you most looking forward to about teaching at Grace?
Being able to integrate my faith in instruction. It has been my dream to prepare Christian teachers to teach in public schools and integrate my faith in teaching, so I can’t wait to do that. I am equally excited about meeting everyone and getting to know the faculty and students here. My first impressions have me very impressed! I can’t wait to work with my School of Education colleagues and get to know the students!
10. What is a little-known fact about you?
To overcome my fear of heights, I decided to go skydiving and I loved it! And, it worked! I don’t have the (irrational) fear of heights anymore. I also am an avid sports fan — mostly Wisconsin sports teams. I love woodworking and farming, and I have traveled to Europe seven times (mostly to German-speaking countries to work on my foreign language skills). – from grace.edu