Get to Know the Ridley College Faculy: Mr. van Niekerk

We have amazing teachers here at Ridley College. They’re passionate about learning, have a great sense of humor and truly love what they do! We decided to ask teachers a few questions in order for you to get to know them better.


Mr. van Niekerk is an awesome math teacher and coaches First Girls Rugby.  His students love him and the girls have great admiration for his humor and passion for the game of rugby. Let’s face it, anyone who can make math easy to understand and fun is a superstar in my books and I’m sure his students agree!

1) What did you take in University? Why did you pursue this? 
I went to school for actuarial science – Basically non-stop applied-math/calculus and statistics coursework. I was always a strong mathematics student and wanted to pursue a career utilizing math, and which also presented a strong career track. In addition, it kept my options open for going in many different career directions. The reality of billable hours and at least eight hours a day in front of a computer screen in a cubicle forced a re-evaluation of what was important to me, and had me consider where else I could use my background yet also enjoy social interaction – ‘Teaching’ ended up being a perfect blend of the two.

2) Did you have any interesting jobs prior to working at Ridley?
I was a door-to-door sales and marketing representative and an actuarial analyst.

3) What do you teach/coach/involved in at Ridley College and why do you love it? 
I teach mathematics (Primarily senior grades – 11 & 12), and I also coach Competitive 1st Girls’ Rugby, and SFL Ultimate Frisbee. I run a boardgames activity, organize the upper school cross-country run, do dorm duty in MSO, and try to be as involved as possible in extra-curricular events (think staff-student Reach, or staff-student sports matches, etc.).

I love teaching mathematics because I am passionate about it being a critical life-skill, and I sincerely believe that no matter where someone ends up, they will use math each and every day. Students often ask ‘when will I ever use this in my life?’, and although they might not specifically need to factor quadratic equations or solve trigonometric identities for a living, they are learning problem-solving strategies and skills that are transferrable to any area of their lives.

I love all my other involvement (and teaching math) because dealing with students in different settings is a dynamic and fluid experience where nothing ever happens the same way twice. I love the energy, zest for life and appetite for learning that students bring to whatever they’re doing, and I think being involved with and around that keeps me young too!

4) What is your passion? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love spending time with my family and kids, am a voracious reader (fantasy genre primarily), love board games, and have been known to play the odd video-game (strategy & rpg). And physical exercise of course!

5) What is your favourite place to go in the Niagara Region? (Restaurant, tourist spot, any place!) 
I like Chang Noi’s for Thai food in St. Catharines, Sushi Eight (Sushi) in Welland, Curry Queen (Indian) in Niagara Falls.

6) Do you have any funny stories about your time at Ridley?
After reminding a team traveling to the U.S. to remember to pack their passports or they’d be left behind, I forgot my own and we had to arrange a special side-of-the-highway stop to have it delivered. Needless to say, I kept a low profile for the rest of the ride down!