Spanish professor Dianne Zandstra lead multiple programs abroad during her Calvin career, which added to her many years of living abroad prior to teaching. Grand Rapids born, Zandstra also lived in New Jersey, the Netherlands and Argentina with her family before earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and French in 1974 from Calvin. Zandstra had been studying French since fifth grade and learned Spanish in Argentina, where her parents spent most of their missionary career.
After a year of teaching high school French in Canada, Zandstra raised two children in Argentina while her husband taught. Six years later, her family returned to Grand Rapids and she began teaching part-time at Calvin in 1988. She continued to teach to various extents while raising two more children and earning a master’s degree in Spanish from Michigan State University in 1993. She then began her full-time career at Calvin in 1996 and earned a PhD in Spanish language and literature from Michigan State University in 2001.
In addition to teaching at Calvin, Zandstra served as the Spanish department chair from spring 2009 to spring 2011, and organized and directed the Spanish semester in Peru fall of 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Zandstra enjoyed many aspects of her Calvin career, especially her relationships with students and colleagues. “I loved the dynamics of the classroom in getting student impressions and insights while walking together through the semester,” she said. Advising students and directing programs abroad in Spain, Mexico and Peru were particular highlights, as she was able to get to know, work with and appreciate students in a better-rounded manner.
She will especially miss her colleagues and the Spanish department as a whole. “We have a great spirit of collaboration in the department—we share ideas and teaching materials,” Zandstra said. “Calvin as a community is a truly unique place. We have so many people that are dedicated to serving the students and being a Christian community of learning.”
Early on in her career, Zandstra learned that God doesn’t waste any experiences in life, despite seasons of doubt. “Studying French wasn’t a waste; all the experiences were valuable,” she said. “I’m always happy to tell students to have faith and an open heart with their lives, because God guides us and uses anything we’ve done. That lesson has been reaffirmed for me over the years.”