Few students at Hillsdale ever mix up the words “professor” and “dad.” But everyone has a friend whose parent teaches here, so what is it really like to take a class taught by your own father?
“It turns out he’s actually a really good teacher,” said sophomore Leo Schlueter, who weighed in with seven other “prof kids” about their experiences both in and out of the classroom.
The majority of them have taken a class taught by their dads — from one credits to three semesters worth.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said sophomore Peter Kalthoff, who took his father for Western Heritage and American Heritage. “A lot of people think I’m crazy for it, but I wanted to see his perspective on teaching and ended up loving it.”
Schlueter agreed and remarked that it was a no brainer.
“It would have been pretty lame to not take my dad,” he said.
Sophomore Josie Miller didn’t have to, but she “just wanted to be able to answer when people asked me if my father is a good professor.”
Senior Claire Calvert said she was a bit more hesitant to sign up for a history class with her dad.
“Every semester he asked me when I was gonna take one of his classes,” she said. “And every time, I told him, ‘I’m just not gonna put in the effort you want Dad, I’m sorry.’”
She caved for her last semester and is auditing his Ancient Rome course. “It’s been really good and a lot of fun,” she said.
Inside the classroom, each professor has a different approach to how they treat their child.
Kaltoff said Professor and Chairman of History Mark Kalthoff didn’t make it obvious on the first day and read his son’s name like everyone else’s on the attendance sheet.
“I think we had this mutual idea that we’d keep it secret,” Kalthoff said. “No one knew for a while.”
Sophomores Josie Miller and Ruth Moreno both said their dads didn’t draw too much attention to them either; however, this wasn’t always the case.
“He roasts me so much,” said Calvert. “He always just slides something in there.”
She said the other students in the class are either highly entertained or very annoyed.
Occasionally, lectures bring more realizations than just having John Locke’s arguments click.
“Sometimes I’ll be sitting there in a lecture, and all of a sudden, I’m back at the dinner table from my youth hearing him say, ‘Either you’re going to govern yourself or you’re going to be governed by your passions,’” Kalthoff said. “My gosh, he’s been feeding me American Heritage lectures my whole life.”
Their parents received high praise in the interviews, especially Professor of Philosophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter, whose son is currently enrolled in his third class with his father.
“I’ve subscribed hard to the Dr. Schlueter brand,” Schlueter said. “It’s been nice because my dad is just a very smart individual.”
Kalthoff said he understands why other students like his dad’s class now.
“I heard great things from other students, too,” Kalthoff said. “He really has great things to say.”
Many vented about how much of what their dads say in other classes gets back to them.
“Random people would come up to me and say, ‘Are you Dr. Rahe’s daughter?’” said Junior Antonia Rahe, who experienced this frequently her freshman year.
She said they’d share a story and ask if it was about her, to which she would grudgingly nod her head.
“As soon as I matriculated to this college, he started telling stories about me,” she said.
Schlueter said he hears about his dad’s comments from others because he doesn’t say them when his son is in class.
“I hear stories all the time,” he said. “Dad, if you can hear me, not cool.”
He said his dad tells his classes that “I’m talking about one of my children” and doesn’t specify which.
“Everybody kind of knows he’s talking about me,” Schlueter said. “Or maybe it’s worse because they all just assume it’s me when it isn’t.”
Sophomore Michael Craig has learned a lot about his dad from friends relaying his lectures, including the fact that his dad is a West Coast rap fan.
“I get to hear everything that my dad said that he shouldn’t have,” he said with a laugh. “Dad, you can’t be saying these things.”
Miller said her father “only uses a red pen to grade,” despite how much she has protested against it.
“I have told him for years that he should use a more pleasant color if he is going to use that much, such as a nice purple or orange,” Miller said. “But he is stuck in his ways, and I give everyone my greatest sympathy that encounters the wrath of his red pen.”
Many of them said they have good memories from the classes.
“I came into class late one time for a review session and left early,” Craig said. “He gave me a lot of grief behind my back and told the class that he didn’t raise me right.”
Miller and her friends still laugh about a memory from her dad’s sports writing class when he couldn’t get a video to work.
“John J is not the most tech-savvy person you will ever meet,” she said. “So when it would not play and he could not figure it out, he dismissed class in a quite frustrated mood. I had a few friends in the class and all we could do is laugh.”
Rahe said she even has memories from her days attending the Hillsdale Academy.
“Sometimes if I was coming back and it was really snowing and I didn’t want to walk home, I’d walk to my dad’s office and fall asleep on his office floor,” she said. “I’d wake up to him in office hours with a student.”
Outside of the classroom, the Morenos recall how they run into their dad around campus.
“My boyfriend and I will be taking a walk and see Dad sitting there on a bench,” Ruth Moreno said. “Hey Dad.”
Her brother, freshman Greg Moreno, experiences the same thing.
“I do see him around campus,” he said. “I don’t know whether to say hi or hide somewhere.”
A perk of being a “prof kid” is having relationships with many of the other professors on campus.
“That’s probably the weirder part,” Greg Moreno said. “Just how many of the professors I know.”
Craig said he regularly plays basketball with some professors.
“I took Dr. Jackson’s Great Books class and told him I was going to meet him on the basketball court and give him grief for making me do all that work,” said Craig, who also plays games with Associate Professor of Mathematics Samuel Webster and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Mark Panaggio. “It’s not very fair, since they’re just there for exercise, and I’m there to run it up.”
While they have funny stories and interesting friendships, “prof kids” are just normal students.
“My dad treats me just like any other student,” Kalthoff said. “I still go to his office hours if I have a question.”
There are misconceptions about having a professor parent, but all eight prof kids said they aren’t true.
“Professors’ kids don’t have a big upper hand,” Kalthoff said. “Sometimes it’s just a little bit more fun.”