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Dave Whisker

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East High School

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Coaches a soccer team of 12-year-old girls
Songwriter and would-be guitar god

reality class act

What just happened? 

"Some days I left my philosophy classes drunk on knowledge. I was walking around campus thinking, "'Oh my goodness, what just happened?'"

Dave Whisker came to St. Ambrose to play soccer, but it was the thought-provoking classes-not soccer balls-that provided the greatest kick.

In his own words

What prompted you to major in English and education?

I always liked reading. In my junior year in high school, I was really challenged in my literature classes. I went from reading Stephen King to Faulkner. That was a big transition.

What's the most rewarding part of your career?

What's cool is that I'm doing something meaningful. Teaching is not glamorous, it's incremental. It's trying to work day in and day out to make a positive impact. I had a former student come last week to observe in the classroom and interview me. He said I had inspired him to become an English teacher. It's cool when your students come back and say, "Now I'm going to be a teacher, too."

What classes at Ambrose made an impact on you?

Some days I left my philosophy classes drunk on knowledge. I was walking around campus thinking, "Oh my goodness, what just happened?" We'd just discussed some mind-blowing insights from great thinkers throughout the ages. What was interesting, besides the material itself, was that you could see who built on the ideas of others-or who rejected those ideas completely.

Does philosophy come into play now that you're a teacher yourself?

I teach Theory of Knowledge, the senior capstone course in the International Baccalaureate program. We ask questions like, "How is it that we know what we know?" or "How can we verify that we know something?" It's really a class in metacognition, thinking about thinking.

What did you do for fun during college?

I'd go to open mic night at the Beehive, which used to be the student union. Sometimes I read poetry or played some music. I've always been fascinated by groups of artists working together, like Hemingway's Lost Generation or the Beats, so this was our little version of that.

How serious were you about music?

I wanted to get a guitar after I saw Eric Clapton Unplugged when I was a kid. Later on I found out we shared the same birthday. I thought, "Wow, the stars are aligned. I'm destined to be the next great guitar player." Now I'm older, and I'll hear these great guitarists in their early 20s that I'll never equal, and I'll think, "You know, teaching is a pretty good gig!"

As a songwriter, who has influenced you?

Lyrically, I try to be more like Bob Dylan in the early days when he focused on what was going on in society. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a song that has lyrics with nothing to say. Just make it an instrumental! When I moved to Colorado, I played in a band. But these days, music is just a hobby.

Shouldn't you at least have a MySpace page to show off your music?

Everybody's a musician these days! Maybe I'll go by Mr. Whisker. It has a certain ring to it.

You coach soccer after work. What's the secret to coaching an under-12 girls' soccer team?

Well, they've been sitting at their desks all day, so generally speaking they're a little squirrelly! It's a balance of making sure you're teaching them something and making sure they're having a good time. People work hard and drastically improve their skill levels when they're enjoying it. If you take all the fun out, you're doing them a disservice.

What do you hope never changes at St. Ambrose?

The idea that the professors are there to teach. I had some classes with maybe six students in a room and with someone who had a Ph.D. teaching us. I never had a TA or a grad student teach my classes. I don't think I ever had a class larger than 30. In a smaller setting you can collaborate and learn. To me, that's where meaningful education really takes place.