May 01, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

Jonathan Holdridge standing in Europe with a river and buildings behind him.

On Saturday, May 4, Jonathan Holdridge will receive his diploma from Calvin University. A few months later, through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the chemistry secondary education major is heading to Germany to teach English as a second language.

“It’s kind of hard to believe I’ll be teaching abroad for a year in a just a few months,” said Holdridge.

In fact, as Holdridge was considering colleges, teaching was furthest from his mind. “My entire mom’s side of the family are all teachers and I thought growing up, I’m never going to be a teacher.”

The tipping points

The track team, a strong science program, and a Christian education are the three main factors in Holdridge choosing to move from Shoreline, Washington to Grand Rapids, Michigan for college.

“I knew I wanted to go into the sciences. I came in thinking I wanted to do engineering and I wanted a strong science program because of it and coming from a public high school, I wanted a stronger foundation in my faith before going out into the real world,” said Holdridge.

What initially attracted Holdridge to Calvin turned out to be important to him throughout his college journey, but what he didn’t anticipate was how God would turn his heart toward teaching.

A pull toward teaching

“As I was wanting to invest more in the sciences growing up I also found I wanted to invest more socially with people and I found that I really enjoyed teaching and helping classmates out with material. I even had some mentors growing up that said Jonathan, you’d be a good teacher,” said Holdridge.

But he still didn’t give it much thought until he started at Calvin.

“I decided to take an education course at Calvin and as I continued to go through my chemistry courses I just realized more and more that I wanted to teach chemistry and I felt like the gifts God has given me pointed toward that direction,” said Holdridge.

Supported on the journey

So, he continued down that path, and discovered a community that he could lean on along the way.

“A big part of my Calvin experience is the relationships I have with professors. Some of the professors I had freshmen or sophomore year I get coffee with a couple times a semester or go out to breakfast with, and those relationships have been so meaningful. That creates a strong support network for me,” said Holdridge.

For Holdridge, having that support, which he says you wouldn’t get at many other institutions, has been so important, especially when challenges arise.

“Student teaching is fun and has its great moments, but it was really challenging at the same time. So, my profs here were really helpful on those days where I felt like a really horrible teacher,” said Holdridge. “Being able to text them and say ‘hey, can we talk, I feel like I’m not doing well.’ And I’d have profs responding at 10 p.m. saying ‘let’s get on a call, what’s going on?’ That was so meaningful for me and impactful.”

A minor with major implications

While Holdridge’s love for teaching was cultivated at Calvin, so too was a love for the German language. “I wanted to take German classes since middle school,” said Holdridge, but he said it wasn’t offered in his district.

“Honestly, it might be something God put on my heart,” said Holdridge. “I can’t think of a good reason why I’ve been interested in German.”

But, after starting to take classes his freshmen year and through studying abroad in Germany in May 2022, Holdridge, who is also a German minor, started to see some “crazy connections” that ultimately would lead to his Fulbright opportunity.

“Professor TenHuisen, who mainly teaches Spanish, was my German professor and he happens to also be the Fulbright liaison,” said Holdridge. “And Calvin is one of just seven universities that has German Fulbright students teach at the university.”

Holdridge has seen God’s fingerprints on getting him this Fulbright opportunity. And now he anticipates this upcoming experience oversees to be a formative one as he continues to prepare to be a high school chemistry teacher and someday a collegiate professor in the United States.

“I think there’s a lot you can learn from other cultures that are present at Calvin, because Calvin has such a diverse student body, but also by going to a new culture and place,” said Holdridge. “I’m excited to go to Germany through this Fulbright program, because I’ll be in the language minority, in a location where I don’t understand the language as much as the locals. It will give me good insight into some of my students who might be in my classroom someday as immigrants or students whose parents speak a different language at home and are still learning English, and so I’m really looking forward to learning how that gives me new insight into those students’ perspectives.”

“I’m also excited to hear about German pedagogical teaching practices,” said Holdridge. “I’m really intrigued to see what I can learn from the classrooms I’m in and what I can bring back to my own classroom.”

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