June 12, 2020 | Staff

A male professor in a shirt and tie smiles sitting in front of his office bookshelf.

For nearly 23 years, Robert Keeley has taught in Calvin University's education department. In recognition of his decades of excellence at the university, Keeley has received the high honor of the 2020 Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching. 

Through his scholarship, service, and teaching, Keeley has influenced many spheres. He has taught at the middle and high school levels, co-authored college math textbooks, served as a chapel leader, joined influential boards, played in a band, and served his church in the areas of faith formation and ministry leadership. He often travels to speak at conferences, schools, and churches. Keeley teaches at both Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary, where he directs the distance learning program.

And yet, through all his commitments, Keeley's teaching and advising scores have not sufferedin fact, they've soared. 

Prolific in scholarship

Keeley is able to excel in teaching in part because of his own tenacious scholarship, including authoring Helping Our Children Grow in Faith: How the Church Can Nurture the Spiritual Development of Kids (Baker Books, 2008). 

With his wife, Laura, Keeley has co-written three books: Celebrating the Milestones of Faith (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009), Psalms for Families (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2013), and Dear Parent: A Guide to Family Faith Formation (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2019). The duo also write bi-monthly column on faith formation for The Banner, a publication of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. 

Keeley edited Shaped by God (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2010) on faith formation and co-edited Bridging Theory and Practice in Children's Spirituality: New Directions for Education, Ministry, and Discipleship (Zondervan 2020) with Mimi Larson. The latter collection ranked in the top 50 of Amazon's best-selling books in the children's Christian ministry category.

Through his writings, Keeley relentlessly pursues truth in education and ministry, and the effective application of truth—not only in his field of education, but also in congregational settings. 

"In his scholarship, [Keeley] has continued to focus on churches and the developing faith of those who are a part of their communities," said Marj Terpstra, chair of the education department.  

A heart set on serving

Throughout his years at Calvin, Keeley has been "an outstanding university citizen," said Arlene Hoogewerf, academic dean. 

She noted that Keeley has served Calvin in many leadership roles including serving on the core curriculum, chapel, and student activities advisory committees of Faculty Senate. 

In the education department, Keeley is also known for his service to colleagues. 

"His faithful and good-natured keeping of department minutes and procedures supports the smooth running of department meetings," said Terpstra. "He is always willing to field a question from less-experienced department faculty members and give a thoughtful response."

Keeley also helped to design the Certificate in Bible Instruction, a CTS program in partnership with Calvin University, providing professional development in Bible instruction at the K–12 level.

Teaching with enthusiasm

Students know Keeley as a strong teacher, and they frequently recommend his courses.  

"Bob’s teaching evaluation scores are exceptional; they are higher than the departmental and university averages," said Hoogewerf. "Students use words like 'awesome' and 'perfect' to describe his teaching." 

Among the many categories in which he excels, students consistently give him high marks for his enthusiasm in teaching. 

One former student said of Keeley: "He cares so much about Christianity and he shares his own stories about his faith which is great. He is very reasonable with the work he assigns and is very easy to approach for advice."

Another former student noted, "Keeley was one of my most favorite professors of my career at Calvin. He is a very forgiving professor and really loves getting to know you as a student."

In terms of advising, Keeley has committed himself to helping students fully plan out their undergraduate coursework. "His thoroughness in making long term program plans with his advisees sets them on a smooth track for their program at Calvin," Terpstra said.

As an instructor and advisor, Keeley looks to students to measure his effectiveness. 

"Students are the primary reason why I do this work,” he said. "I’m thrilled that many of them have been appreciative.”

While the annual Faculty Awards Dinner was cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19, congratulations for Keeley, including messages from former students, may be sent to rkeeley@calvin.edu.

Presidential Award

The Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching, Calvin University's highest teaching honor, was established in 1993 by a donor in honor of George Tinholt, a former member of the Calvin board of trustees.

Faculty Awards

The following awards were given by the provost’s office for the 2019–2020 academic year. 

Advising and Mentoring Award
Ryan Bebej (biology)

From Every Nation Award for Excellence in Teaching
Pearl Shangkuan (music)

Innovative Teaching Award
Marilyn Stansbury (business) 

Student-Faculty Research Award
Kristine Johnson (English), Don Tellinghuisen (psychology), 

Teaching Excellence Award for Affiliated and Adjunct Faculty
Monica Groenenboom (engineering)

Recent stories