Born to teach: A physics teacher’s love for engineering and sketches

The secret behind Dale Freeland’s perfect circles and sketches

Ethan Lee, Opinion Editor & Business Manager

He winds his straight arm all the way back and lets it go. He has perfected the technique over the years. An almost perfect circle is left on the board.

A physics teacher, Dale Freeland has been teaching at Portage Central ever since his three children attended. His youngest son, Michael, is currently a teacher here.

Freeland attended high school in Kent City, a small town north of Grand Rapids, where he developed his interest of science and how things worked. After he graduated, he attended Western Michigan University, where he majored in mathematics and physics, and studied mechanical engineering. Shortly after, he decided that he wanted to have a career in teaching science.

Freeland soon landed a job at Portage Central when his daughter was a senior, and his first son, Ryan, was a sophomore. Michael eventually followed. “It was nice to be in the building where my children were going to school, convenient sometimes,” Freeland said. “[It was convenient] for them, if they needed to come down and borrow some lunch money, or ask other questions.”

In the diverse subject of physics, electricity is Freeland’s favorite area, as it leads into computers and microcontrollers. “It’s opened up a whole new world,” Freeland said.

Kaoru Murai
Long time physics teacher, Dale Freeland leads an interactive lesson each day, actively engaging his students.

He liked watching his children participate in high school activities, and now, he can watch his grandson do the same. Another hobby of his is working with students, especially in Science Olympiad competitions, which he mentors.

“We do three engineering contests: the underwater remote operated vehicle contest, the radio controlled car conversion contest, and we’ve got started on an autonomous vehicle contest,” said Freeland. “It allows students to use something they’ve learned at school and apply them in new ways, and there is a great deal of learning that goes on in those new situations.”

“Science Olympiad involves a team of up to fifteen students; the fifteen students participated in 23 different events,” Freeland said. “Each student will do probably three or four projects, and when we show up to a contest date, we see how well we’ve prepared. Generally, students find if they work on it, read the rules, understand the rules and do their research, they can be competitive with anyone.”

The interesting thing about teaching physics is giving students an application, Freeland said. His legacy includes former students who, after getting started with an engineering project, found out they liked it and pursued it. Former students include an employee that has designed and built remote control aircraft in Saudi Arabia, a graduate that designs autonomous drones to do wind generator inspections and a trainee in the third year of an electrical apprenticing.

On drawing a perfect circle, Freeland said that he probably saw someone do it before and tried to mimic it himself. “I practiced with it, and it’s a reasonable circle now, as we need a circle drawn for some illustrations,” he said. “My students would tell you and know that I like sketches, and drawing a nice circle is a part of some sketches that I use.”