For Zach Kingma ’19, teaching was a part of his career plans from early on because of some excellent role models. “My 8th grade and high school teachers struck me as wise individuals. They invested in their students and they genuinely cared about me,” says the Grade 5 teacher at Oak Hill Academy.
For Grace Rajballie ’20, the road to a teaching career was a more gradual journey. The Grade 2 teacher at Oak Hill has many teachers in her family and initially wanted to do something different. But the more she explored her strengths, the more teaching drew her in. “Now I know this is something I want to do for the rest of my career.”
What drew me to classical education was the integration and coherence of the curriculum.
Both teachers are now experiencing the world of classical education at Oak Hill Academy. Oak Hill has a number of connections to Redeemer alumni, including founder Doug Sikkema ’06, who is an assistant professor of English at Redeemer. “What drew me to classical education was the integration and coherence of the curriculum,” says Sikkema. “Not only were students provided a rich curriculum, but they connect that to a historical timeline. In addition to this, discipleship and virtue formation are prioritized in school liturgies.”
Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind called the trivium, made up of grammar, logic and rhetoric. Grammar is the mechanics of language, logic is the mechanics of thought and analysis, and rhetoric is the application of language in order to instruct or persuade. The quadrivium then rounds out the liberal arts education with arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.
“We’re trying to instill this sense of awe and wonder and just help the students grow as people, citizens of the Kingdom of God,” says Kingma, adding that mastery of a subject before moving on to something new is the goal. “We do a lot more discussion-based learning. We sit with topics and wrestle with them and allow for open discussion and conversation. Students take responsibility for their own learning.”
Rajballie reflects on teaching her students about plants and flowers where she was able to take them outside and actually show them what they were learning about. “My students are really involved with the learning process.”
Both alumni credit Redeemer in preparing them well for their careers. Rajballie said the small class sizes allowed for more interaction and opportunities to give presentations than she would have had at other schools, which gave her the confidence to explain concepts to her Oak Hill students.
As a liberal arts university, Redeemer prepared Kingma to think broadly about a range of subjects, not just a narrow field of study. “Diving into different areas of knowledge was important for preparing for classical education. It wasn’t completely foreign to me because of what I learned at Redeemer. I appreciated that.”