Even in graduate school, Kevin Gerstle, Hillsdale’s newest assistant professor of mathematics, stood out to his professor’s teaching assistant.
Gerstle is one of 11 new faculty members Hillsdale College has welcomed this school year. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and mathematics from Kenyon College and a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Iowa, he is in his third year as a professor of mathematics.
While studying at the University of Iowa, one of his teaching assistants was David Gaebler, who is now an assistant professor of mathematics at Hillsdale. Gaebler noted his ability to solve difficult problems and explain them in a clear way.
This semester, Gerstle will teach Hillsdales students two sections of Calculus II and one section of Complex Analysis.
Gerstle said he was specifically drawn to Hillsdale because of its students, who are known for their academic strength and curious minds. He said he hopes to enjoy interactions with students both in and out of the classroom and foster an active-learning style of teaching.
“In my opinion, the best sort of classroom is one where students aren’t just sitting there passively listening, but ones where they’re actually getting to take part in the class experience,” Gerstle said. “How they do that can take a variety of forms. It could be simple matter of asking and answering questions or giving students an opportunity to work together in small groups.”
Gerstle is already implementing this style of teaching in his classes by allowing students to present information to the class. Gerstle said he had his students write out problems they were working on and display them on a board for the rest of the class to see.
“I think it’s really important to give students a way to actually do math themselves in the classroom rather than just watching or listening someone else do it,” Gerstle said. “You get so much more out of it that way.”
Gerstle’s creativity and passion for hands-on learning display his passion for actually doing math, and not just teaching it.
“If I wasn’t a professor, I would be a programmer of some sort probably. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and I think if I hadn’t decided to go into a teaching career, then I think I would’ve gone into working for a corporation or the government ‚” Gerstle said.
Sophomore Carmen Botha is taking Calculus II with Gerstle, and she said Gerstle has a great way of keeping the class involved.
“He is very helpful in office hours and keeps his class fun and interesting by making jokes,” Botha said.
Prior to arriving in Hillsdale, Gerstle served as a visiting professor at Oberlin College for two years. When his career at Oberlin concluded, he began searching for a new position.
“I had applied for a lot of jobs but Hillsdale’s was one that particularly interested me when I was reading job ads,” Gerstle said. “I came in already knowing Dr. Gaebler…I knew he had good things to say about the school.”
Gaebler said he is anticipating great things from the mathematics department’s newest addition.
“It wasn’t long before he was winning awards for both his teaching and his research, while filling key roles in social and outreach events,” Gaebler said. “I was excited to see him hired here and am looking forward to all the ways his energy and expertise will make themselves felt at Hillsdale.”