Teacher Spotlight: Dr. James van Sandwyk

By: Mila Mabhongo, Staff Reporter

As T-D’s 2018-2019 school year began, we welcomed three new academic staff members who all come from different corners of the world to our family. Dr. James van Sandwyk, our newest science teacher, is a biology enthusiast from South Africa, who teaches high school science as well as TD’s new thematic science classes. The Overlook Journal had a chance to sit down with him and he spoke to us about some of his experiences outside of TD, as well as his teaching background.  

Where are you from and where did you grow up?

“I’m originally from South Africa. I grew up in different parts [of South Africa], so, Mpumalanga (Lydenburg), Johannesburg, and I studied in Pretoria.”


Where were you before Thornton-Donovan?

“I was actually working at a university. I was the head of biology and chemistry in Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan.”


What classes do you teach and which is your favorite?

“Here, I teach Biology, Zoology, Microbiology and IPS (although there’s one student in that class). I don’t really have a favorite, they’re kind of all fun to teach.”


What is your proudest moment as a teacher?

“My proudest moment would be seeing my students graduate. Seeing that they’ve grasped the concept that I’m trying to bring across, and actually seeing that they’ve developed a passion for the material, and deciding to actually pursue biology as something they wanna do.”


Why do you do what you do?

“I love education. I love teaching, it’s important and a lot of fun. I enjoy it.”


How did you become interested in science?

“I grew up on a farm, so working with animals and seeing lots of animals made me very interested in them and that’s what got me interested in biology, and why I chose to study biology as a science in university.”


How do you plan to incorporate Mongolia into your science classes?

“Once we start to progress, once we’ve gotten the basic knowledge down with the students, I will start incorporating case studies, and looking at specific animal cases and diseases that came from that region.”


Dr. James may be new to us this year, but he’s very adamant on wanting his students to succeed. He makes his classes fun and enjoyable for both him and his students and is very passionate about what he teaches. It is always great when a student can tell that his/her teacher loves what they do.  We are very grateful to have a well-rounded and driven staff member join our team, and we all cannot wait to see what he has in store for us for the year.