Meet the Teacher: Clinton Jepkema, Niles High School

Educators are perhaps the greatest population of unsung heroes in Berrien and Cass County. This school year, Leader Publications will publish a weekly spotlight featuring teachers throughout the district, giving the community a chance to get to know the hard-working individuals shaping their children’s lives. Throughout the next school year, their answers will be published in the newspaper that serves each school district.

Name: Clinton Jepkema

School: Niles High School

Grades/subjects taught: Physics, precalculus and AP calculus. In the past I have also taught algebra I and II and geometry.

Where did you attend college? Hope College; masters from Eastern Kentucky University

How many years have you been teaching? How many years have you been with your current school? [I’m] on my 11th year teaching [and] sixth at Niles and five years [I] taught in Kentucky.

Why did you decide to become a teacher? I love watching students learn new, complicated material and seeing the pure joy and exhilaration of understanding how things work and realizing that they can do difficult work well.

Outside of school, what do you enjoy doing for fun? Reading, raising my two daughters and camping.

What is one thing your students may not know about you? I enjoy being outdoors a lot.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Merry and Pippin from “Lord of the Rings.” They faced lots of adversity voluntarily and did not back down. They were able to accomplish amazing feats that they could be very proud of. Also, they adventured through most of the natural wonders of an entire continent (something I am very jealous of) with a close group of friends.

When you were a student in the grade you teach, what were your favorite hobbies? Soccer, reading and hanging out with friends.

How would your co-workers describe your teaching style and personality? Difficult, demanding and fair.

How has education changed in the last 10 years? There is an emphasis on it being the teacher’s responsibility to engage students and make things interesting instead of expecting students to be responsible for themselves.

What is your best advice to parents to help their child continue growing academically? Provide as much support as possible, but make it clear that they are responsible for their own results.

If my students learn one thing this year, I hope it is… That math doesn’t have to be scary!

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