Teaching for me has always been a natural extension of who I am: I love learning, but even more I love being able to pass on knowledge to others and show them just how utterly sublime and fascinating the world around us is.”

Jeffrey Feland

Writing, Vocabulary, Literature, & Latin
VDA Teacher since 2010

Tell me a little about your personal and educational background.I'm originally from Manteca, a small town in northern California. In high school, I had a particular aptitude for math and science and won several awards, but I also loved my Spanish classes and was able to take four years’ worth of classes in just two. When I went to college at UC Davis, the math and science student in me was attracted to biochemistry and psycholinguistics. But after I took a class in Greek and Latin roots in medical terminology, the language lover in me won out. I completed a double major in Classics and English at UC Davis in 2006, and I earned my doctorate in Classics from UC Irvine in 2014.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I can't pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to become a teacher because I think it's something that's always been a part of me. I was the kid who came home from school to play school. I was the student who would catch on fast and then work to help my fellow students understand each new topic. Teaching for me has always been a natural extension of who I am: I love learning, but even more I love being able to pass on knowledge to others and show them just how utterly sublime and fascinating the world around us is. 

Why did you choose language arts as your teaching specialty?
In 7th grade, when a few students were given the opportunity to study Spanish at the high school the following year, my Language Arts teacher refused to recommend me even though I was an A student. When I asked why, she said: "You're a good student, but based on your English skills, you will never be proficient at a foreign language." She might be surprised to know that I am now fluent in five languages, including Ancient Greek and Latin. There is something wondrous and beautifully complicated about how we communicate, about the power that language has to encode, define, and shade the world we live in. And in exploring and teaching languages, both native and foreign, I feel like I've truly found my calling. I also believe that everyone is capable of learning a foreign language with enough dedication and hard work - and no teacher should ever tell a student otherwise! 

What brought you to VanDamme Academy?
In September 2010, one of the secretaries for my department at UCI told me that VanDamme Academy was looking for a Latin tutor, and she asked if I was interested. I jumped at the chance and began teaching Latin to a small group of 8th graders. In 2011, I was hired part-time to teach a Grammar and Writing class, and the following year, I became the homeroom teacher for 6th grade and took on more classes, including Literature. I now have the honor of teaching Writing, Vocabulary, Literature, and Art Appreciation classes, in addition to being the homeroom teacher for 7th grade!

Will you share one of your favorite teaching experiences?
In my literature class, I love delving into the action, analyzing the characters and exploring the theme within a work. It's a wonderful moment when you can see the students fully comprehending what they've read – not just analytically, but emotionally – and personally connecting to the writing. But nothing pleases me more than seeing students apply their years of grammar training to their study of Latin. It's so exciting to see that light bulb turn on as they start making connections with another language and understanding how a different people communicated.