For Dan Kernler, associate professor of mathematics, it all matters. From helping students become college-ready in math, to providing the knowledge and skills to complete courses and master content directly related to their major and future career, he has been positively impacting students for 14 years since joining the college in 2003.
Kernler first heard the phrase 'it all matters,' on an episode of HBO's series “The Wire.”
“This phrase has stuck with me since first hearing it,” said Kernler when asked for a quote that best describes his philosophy on life. “Everything we do matters. How we treat the student who comes in late to class unexpectedly. How we talk to a colleague who's been struggling with issues outside of work. The way we interact with those we see in the halls or on the streets. Treating each person in our lives as human and worthy. It all matters. All of it.”
To him, his job is more than just teaching.
“Teaching at a community college is more than just teaching the content,” he said. “Particularly for students who have had negative experiences in the past, I sometimes spend more time managing emotions and trying to build confidence and self-efficacy than I do actually teaching math.”
We asked Kernler some questions about himself and his work at ECC. Here are his answers.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been here?
This is tough. I had to think about this one for a while, and I realized that I feel most proud when I look around at my colleagues and think of all the hiring and tenure committees I've been honored to participate on. We (mathematics) really have a fantastic department, and I like to think I had a small part in shaping it.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
Since there's so much going on in the college that I'm not aware of, I'd probably just spend the day out and about, trying to get a sense of all that happens on a daily basis.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Per my wife's suggestion, because she knows me so well and I'm positive she was 100 percent serious, Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. “The Rock.”
What's on your “bucket list?”
I've never had a bucket list. I've done some bucket list-type things like run a marathon and jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but there's no list. I guess I'd say that at some point I'd like to learn enough Spanish to be able to travel to a Spanish-speaking country on an immersion trip.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
With two young boys (ages six and eight), I've really enjoyed getting into the things they want to do. I love being a sideline parent cheering them on. I've also enjoyed supporting my oldest in his Fox Valley Robotics experience. I mean, who doesn't like playing with Legos?!
Where was the best place you've traveled to? Or, where would you like to visit?
I've been lucky to travel to a few different countries, but my heart is in Italy. I have some Italian cousins that I've been able to visit twice, and I just love the country and the people. We're actually hoping to visit again next summer with the whole family. I can't wait!
What would be your “theme song?”
Theme song? Like entrance music when I come on stage? Dear lord, I have no idea.
What was your favorite class in school?
I sang for five years in my college choir and just loved it. Most of my college friends are choir-related. It was such a great experience and a nice respite from the engineering and math courses I had earlier in the day!
What was your first job out of school?
After earning my graduate degree in applied and computational mathematics from the University of Minnesota Duluth, I was immediately hired onto the staff as a temporary full-time mathematics instructor.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
It really is a great place to work. My colleagues challenge and motivate me every day to be a better mathematics instructor. The support I feel here encourages me to try new things and maximize my capabilities. I tell my students that an ideal workplace is one where they feel challenged and have the support of their supervisors and colleagues. In my mind, I'm really describing ECC.