A seasoned globe traveler and mathematics instructor at Elite of Fountain Valley, Robert Nyenhuis talked to us from Bolivia where he was doing some research for his doctoral thesis. Don't worry, guys. He'll be back in time for summer classes.
Hi Rob! Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to college?
Hmm...long story. I was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa. I moved to Marshall, MO in high school, went to Mizzou for undergrad, lived in Spain for some time, and moved out to California to pursue a Ph.D at UC Irvine.
What exactly do you do at Elite and how long have you been doing it?
I teach the SAT Math and tutor high school math students during the school year. I'm currently in my fourth year at Elite.
So Bolivia, huh? What are you working on there?
I am in Bolivia conducting research on the country's 2014 presidential election. I'm interviewing journalists, academics, campaign strategists, politicians, and anyone who is interested in talking to me.
Most of your students are looking forward to college. What was the most useful college course you took?
I'm going to cheat and tell you about two of them. The first was a US History class: 1865 to the present. It was taught by an African-American professor (Carol Anderson, now at Emory) who emphasized not only critical thinking but also getting the big picture and understanding the causal story of events. The other was Politics and the Media. It was phenomenal. We learnt the nitty gritty of campaigns in US elections. In this class I met several friends who helped me land a job on a campaign for a Missouri senator after college. My advice is to use your college classes as opportunities to network with professors and classmates. Don't be shy!
Who was one of your most influential teachers and what made him or her special?
Mrs. Connor–high school Spanish. She didn't teach just grammar and vocabulary, but also culture. I fell in love with Latin America in her classes, and here I am in La Paz, Bolivia, after some time in Chile.
Everbody's got a superpower. What's yours?
Making the hours before I go to bed disappear.
"Was it a car or cat I saw?"
What's some advice you'd give to your high school self?
High school Robert was a decent guy. :) Take the ACT/SAT again! Also, apply to out-of-state schools, out of your comfort zone.
What's your number one study tip?
Preparation. Preparing for any test is like preparing for a marathon. Plan out far in advance, set goals, then work diligently to meet these goals. But, be realistic. I'll leave you with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."