“God’s nature is seen throughout science, and the Bible predicts it and tells us to be on the lookout for it.” These words by faculty member Dr. Sean Vinaja (Math Ed., Science Ed. ’98) reflect one of his goals as a teacher: to highlight the connection between science and the Bible.
Since childhood, Vinaja has loved science and math. When he finished his undergraduate degree at PCC, he continued his schooling by first pursuing a master’s in Bible exposition (’00) before moving on to obtain a doctorate.
Through his studies, Vinaja gained a greater appreciation for how understanding science can help his students better appreciate God’s creation and His character. Vinaja explained, “In the physical sciences (chemistry, physics) and their applied sciences (earth science, astronomy), we see God’s obvious orderliness intersect with His creativity: no matter how different two systems are in their design or complexity, they obey the same scientific laws (Job 38:33).”
Vinaja added, “We also see God’s desire for our fellowship by making systems knowable, leading us to Him: simple systems make complex systems understandable, and the obvious design of both leads us to the Designer (Romans 1:17–20).”
As he seeks to help students learn more about these systems, Vinaja finds himself balancing various responsibilities. “My most obvious responsibility is teaching, and my least obvious is getting ready to teach. Getting ready to teach involves everything from putting on my socks to putting on an awake and enthusiastic expression to putting together my lesson,” Vinaja said. In addition to teaching in the classroom, Vinaja is a faculty advisor for pre-physical therapy and teaches two online science courses during the summer.
However, amidst his busy schedule, Vinaja explained that he loves his job: “I enjoy my students, I enjoy teaching my subjects, I enjoy the four days of nice Florida weather in the fall and spring, I enjoy the food at Four Winds, I enjoy the faculty I interact with, and I enjoy being part of our Campus Church ministry.” He especially loves working with his wife, Elizabeth, who teaches in the English department.
Elizabeth said concerning their sharing an office, “When I get back from a class, at any time during the day, there is often a line of students waiting to see him. When more than two students are waiting in line, he will regularly find an empty classroom or use the conference room to host impromptu help classes throughout the day.”
She added, “He doesn’t just tell them the answers. He asks follow-up questions and then waits patiently for them or helps them along step by step until they get it.”
In addition to his willingness to work with students outside class, Vinaja works to make class enjoyable and interesting. Many students enjoy the suspense of not knowing what object Vinaja will bring to class to reinforce his explanations.
“I love using almost any toy as a demonstration. I use a Hoberman sphere for scientific notation, a Ping-Pong ball launcher for accuracy and precision, bubbles for refraction, Maalox (not technically a toy!) for buffers, CO2 cartridges for adiabatic cooling and PV work, a Slinky for waves, a water gun for the dual nature of light, and my students as targets and/or helpers.”
Having taught classes such as Algebra I and II, Consumer Math, General Science, Physics, and Chemistry for just over twenty years, Vinaja has curated enough examples to engage his students with hands-on learning throughout the semester.
Vinaja said that he views Jesus as a master teacher, and he tries to apply some of Christ’s teaching techniques to his own student instruction.
Students such as Kaytlyn (Soph., FL) appreciate Vinaja’s desire to be a master teacher. She said, “In lectures Dr. Vinaja will . . . explain how an equation or formula was formed and correlates this to the intelligent, intricate design of God even for just the science realm.” She added that he also “on multiple occasions . . . has gone over a quiz or test with me, explaining and giving me more example problems until I understood the concept.”
As he helps students each semester, Vinaja seeks to be both a merciful and consistent teacher. “God sets up a million processes of renewal throughout His creation (Eccles. 1:6–7), and we are therefore not at all surprised by—though we are still definitely appreciative of—His mercies that are renewed for us every day,” Vinaja said.