Daron Van Lingen – Fort McMurray Catholic School District

By Becky Benoit

When it comes to math, engineering and robots, it’s traditionally been a man’s world. But local engineering teacher Daron Van Lingen is shattering that glass ceiling for the students of Fort McMurray.

Van Lingen does more than just teach engineering and technology at Father Mercredi High School – she takes her students’ learning well beyond the walls of the classroom. Van Lingen has taken two teams of students to compete in Edmonton at the Lego Robotics competition and as president of the Wood Buffalo Regional Science Fair Committee, she has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for dedicated science students across the region.

Van Lingen teaches both Lego and Vex robotics and says the programs are truly inspirational for both kids and teachers. “These robotics programs provide students with the opportunity to connect prior knowledge and experience to something new that they can imagine, design, construct and problem-solve into an innovation. The only limit is their imagination,” Van Lingen says.

The 27-year old teacher, who holds a Master in Science Education, says she challenges the old stereotype that math and science are for boys on a daily basis. “Gender should not determine which academic field a student should follow. I have encountered many extraordinary students, both male and female, who have a passion for mathematics and sciences,” says Van Lingen, who regularly invites female engineers from local industry to speak to her students.

“As a female teaching an engineering program, I’m trying to show students that no matter what gender you are, as long as you show a strong work ethic and determination, you’re able to achieve anything you set your mind to.”

In addition to her work in science education, Van Lingen coaches girls’ rugby at Father Mercredi, a program which has become increasingly popular as more and more high school girls discover the challenging sport.

“Our team has experienced a lot of success as well as a growing passion for the sport,” Van Lingen says, adding that she hopes to see the program expanded in the future to all local high schools.

What drives Van Lingen’s passion for teaching?

“I was drawn to teaching because I had so many positive role models during my educational experience. I wanted to share my love of science and athletics with students,” she says. “Engineering is such a vital part of Fort McMurray, and teaching engineering provides students with real-life, relevant opportunities and insight into what engineering really is.”