Kevin Van Dam

Kevin Van Dam

Kevin grew up in Westborough, Massachusetts and holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from UMass Amherst. Kevin arrived at the Academy in 2018 as an intern in the academic support office and fully immersed himself in the Suffield community, also filling roles as a coach and dorm parent. During this time, Kevin also developed the curriculum for Engineering Problem Solving, a science elective that he added to Suffield’s course catalogue. He became a full-time faculty member in 2018 as a member of the mathematics and science departments.

Kevin is the head coach of the JV boys’ soccer team. He is also an active member of Suffield’s golf program, for which he coaches JV and assists with varsity. He is currently the dorm head in Adib-Samii, living on campus with his wife, Jodie, and dogs, Snickers and Dunkin. Kevin is an avid golfer and spends much of his time snowboarding during the winter.


Where were you born?
I was born in the Worcester area of Central Massachusetts, about thirty minutes outside of Boston.

What do you love about where you are from?
My favorite part of being from this area was its proximity to some of my favorite things. Maine has always been a massive part of my identity, and being only an hour away from the border gave me quick access to the ocean, forest, and mountains of my favorite state. I was also a mere train ride from Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, allowing me the privilege of watching my favorite teams play.

If someone was traveling to where you are from for 24 hours, what would you recommend? 
Worcester has some phenomenal restaurants on Commercial St, and if someone was visiting the area, I’d recommend an evening of getting apps at all sorts of different places.

What do you love about where you live now?
Suffield is similar to my hometown in many ways. It’s a small town, but close to a lot of action. 20 minutes from Springfield, 30 minutes from Hartford, and 90 minutes from New York and Boston, everything is so accessible! And the restaurants in Simsbury are just as good as some of the places in Worcester.

What is your favorite thing about day-to-day life at Suffield Academy? 
My favorite part of being a Suffield faculty member is the variety of experiences I get to share with the students. Being able to witness them in the classroom, in the dorm, and on the field of play allows me to see where every student truly shines, and be a part of their triumphs, wherever they may take place. My favorite part of teaching is working to find every student’s “Aha Moment.” Every student learns differently and working to find the best way of imparting lessons on all my students is an exciting problem-solving exercise that I always enjoy working through. It is crucial that I do everything in my power to get through to each of my students, and that will always be my goal as an educator. In terms of coaching, bringing together a group of twenty or so students to all work together to achieve a common goal is extremely rewarding. Fully devoting myself to my teams’ success spreads to the players and has resulted in overwhelmingly fun and successful seasons.

What is one word that you live by? 
One word that I live my life by is improvisation. While I am terrible at improv comedy, I am astute at thinking on my feet and finding new ways to accomplish a task or coming up with new examples that benefit my teaching and coaching. For some teachers, a lesson plan detailing every minute of class for the next month is their recipe for success, and that works great for them. To me, this method restricts my ability to adapt to classroom situations that I hadn’t planned for. Maybe one topic comes much easier to my students than I thought, or maybe they need extra examples that detail a solution method they’re struggling with. I find the best method for me is to play to my strengths of improvisation. I have a roadmap of topics I want to cover in the days ahead and an overall goal of when I want to assess my students’ knowledge. From there, I play off the vibe of each individual class in terms of lesson plans, and individualize my lessons based on what each section, and each student needs. It took me some time to understand how successful this method has allowed me to be as an educator, and my advice to new teachers would be to find what works for you, and don’t feel like you have to teach a certain way because that’s how your colleagues do it.

What are some things your Suffield Academy family might not know about you?
My summer days are filled with golf and walks with my wife, Jodie, and dog, Dunkin. I love a cup of iced coffee and recently perfected the art of making the perfect pulled pork with my smoker. I try to get up to Maine as often as I can now that my parents live in Ogunquit full time. I love being in nature and am at my happiest when I am outside. In the winters, I snowboard as often as I can and do my best to remain active, utilizing Suffield’s athletic facilities to play squash, lift weights, and run. I truly believe that movement is medicine, and I am thankful for all of the access that I have to remain active throughout the year.