The Magic of a Great Teacher
Students reflect on a favorite teacher
Students and former students of Luke Reinsma, SPU professor of English and director of the University Scholars program, reflect on how his teaching and mentorship has shaped their lives.
Jessica Gilroy Ivaska ’03
I loved Dr. Reinsma’s passion. It’s amazing to be in a class with someone who truly loves what they do. He has a passion for literature, people, and the world, and has an incredible way of marrying them all together. I remember … struggling to choose a major. Listening to Dr. Reinsma, it suddenly all made sense. Literature! God used him to direct my path, and I’m so thankful that he did!
Adrienne Lema, ’05
Dr. Reinsma generates some of the best “professor moments” on the SPU campus. There’s the time he climbed a telephone pole with his pickaxe, or the instant he fell to his knees in front of a student because she made his point for him. My favorite Reinsma Moment is much less exotic. When I studied Beowulf with him, he assigned a paper that I struggled to write. I put it off till the last night, stayed up too late trying to be scholarly, and ultimately won myself one of Dr. Reinsma’s notoriously just grades. But he let me rewrite it. He talked me through my ideas about the text in his office, then allowed me to borrow a few of his books. That day, he taught an uptight, A-seeking student about more than Beowulf. He taught me how to breathe.
Chris Overholt ’92
Dr. Reinsma let himself be completely taken up by the material and cared deeply about each student. I remember him reading the Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale” in perfect Middle English to our lit class. I’ve been a fan of Chaucer ever since.
I also have great memories from Advanced Expository Lit of reading some great works and really falling in love with words and great writing. That love of great writing has stuck with me ever since. It kind of spoiled me. Now I can’t read bad literature — it’s too painful.
Justin Peters ’07
Dr. Reinsma is the wisest teacher and person I have ever encountered, and one source of this great wisdom is his humility. He approaches each students as an individual and is willing to admit his own uncertainties: He opens up about the what he does not know and what he doubts in a way that is rare and refreshing in a professor. In each class he gives the impression that he is learning with and from his students, not just teaching down to them. Nevertheless, he gives more care and honest criticism to student papers than anyone else.
I had the opportunity to study abroad at one of the best universities in the world as an undergraduate, and I have never been challenged as a writer as I was in Dr. Reinsma’s classes — nor has anyone shown as much attention and concern in the response they gave to my work. Sometimes I was shocked by a grade received on a Dr. Reinsma paper, but he is ultimately concerned with getting his students to think and see better, beyond the tumult and petty concerns of each day to the possibility that resides in this world. He is to me a mentor, teacher, inspiration, almost a fatherly figure, and most of all, a friend.
Lauren Wilford, SPU Freshman
One thing I admire about Dr. Reinsma’s leadership is that he is so willing to stop a lecture to dwell on a resonant question. He’s not using the Socratic method, leading us along a tether toward a preconceived answer. He asks us questions because he wants to know too. He never talks down to the class. … He integrates faith and study through his desire to answer the big questions of life through literature. You can really tell that he thinks there is spirituality to be found in the lines of a poem, and he makes sure to spend time exploring the riches below the surface.
Cheri Wilke ’02
It was a warm, beautiful spring, which made it doubly difficult to sit inside a stuffy classroom. But this was “Arthurian Legends” with Luke Reinsma, so even though the scent of fresh-mowed grass wafted through the open windows, I was enraptured by his passion for the ancient world of King Arthur, Percival, and all the knights of the round table.
It was a small class, and I was always waving my arm, making the most comments per class. … At the end of the quarter, Dr. Reinsma stopped me as I was heading out the door after the final and, with the most sincere of compliments, thanked me for helping him teach his class. This was the graciousness of Dr. Reinsma that I grew to admire, his way of making you feel good about what you were contributing, and what you had to say.
Jane Stroebel Gregg '88
I believe it was Dr. Reinsma's very first year at SPU and I was extremely lucky to find myself in his class and one of his advisees. His teaching changed and shaped my life then and for years to come.
I took every one of the classes he taught at the time and learned all I could. I still give myself .05 for each word I delete, ask myself "so what" to find my true thesis and try to reign in my penchant for using a series of three items linked with commas. But it is his willingness to tell hard truths in service of learning that I remember most. It is, I believe, the highest form of respect. A respect he shows regularly to those lucky enough to be his students.
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