For over 30 years, David Feikes has been empowering teachers around the world to create mathematicians. Whether it’s supporting his students at Purdue Northwest or traveling to Belize, Feikes has no plans to stop.
Becoming a math professor was not something that Feikes immediately picked, but it has become the perfect fit.
“My dad was my high school calculus teacher, “ Feikes said, “and I didn't want to go into math. I just kind of fell into [it], and then I realized there was a Ph.D. in math education at Purdue University. I drove down for six years for three days a week.”
That Ph.D. led to a full-time position at Purdue Northwest in Westville. For 30 years, Feikes has instructed preservice elementary teachers on the essentials of math instruction.
Feikes doesn’t learn from staying on the sidelines. Visiting over 1000 classrooms throughout his career, sometimes as many as 22 a week, Feikes keeps up with needs and trends by going out into the field.
“I just love going out there,” Feikes said. “I love talking to kids and seeing how they think. It's amazing!”
His book Connecting Math for Elementary Students will soon be followed by a second manuscript.
Hard at work, Feike’s research primarily focuses on algebra readiness and math instruction in developing countries.
In the most recent decade, Feikes has realized that the need to support great math instruction exists throughout the world.
Initially, Feikes went to Belize as part of his church’s mission work.
Feikes traveled with a group to Belize to build churches.
However, Feikes quickly realized that his true purpose was to teach teachers. So that’s exactly what he did.
In recent years, Feikes has taken his love of teaching to a small town in Belize. In 95+ degree heat and without access to all the needed supplies, Feikes worked with approximately 35 Belizean teachers.
“There's no air conditioner. There are four big fans in the ceiling, and it was 95 to 100,” Feikes said. “I had to sit in my car at lunch and turn on the air because I was just exhausted. But I did it. And it went really, really well.”
What began as part of his church’s mission work, has grown into a project that now includes additional American educators traveling to Belize this summer.
Feikes also expanded into workshops with Belizean students.
“I visited three elementary schools, and the kids are so enthusiastic,” Feikes said. “They call out teacher, teacher, teacher…they're so excited, but we didn't feel that they are getting the opportunity to learn math.”
So Feikes is working to help that too.
“It turns out that high school [in Belize] costs $600 a year,” Feikes said. “So if you're in a village, you have to ride these old rickety buses to get to the high school that is not centrally located.”
Knowing that this cost is insurmountable for many, Feikes has taken it upon himself to sponsor students as well as get additional funding from family and friends.
Never one to stay still, in what little free time Feikes has he travels to Sharing Meadows–a residential mental health facility in LaPorte–to teach math to residents.
“After eight months, we did story problems with the group,” Feikes said. “And they were amazing. They practiced, and they’re working ahead. We’re making a difference there…It is just an amazing, amazing place.”
In addition to teaching Feikes has five children, and he loves spending time with them and with his grandchildren.