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From Punter to Professor

Oct. 11, 2002

By Simit Shah – Dan Dyke has spent plenty of time kicking to opponents during his four years as the Yellow Jackets’ punter, but this fall he’s doing some fielding as well. Fielding questions that is, not punts, as a math teaching assistant this semester.

Each week, the three-time Verizon Academic All-America teaches two sessions of Calculus 1507, which is the first of three calculus courses that most Tech students are required to complete.

“I only need six hours to graduate, so I figured I’d have some free time in the fall,” said Dyke, an electrical engineering major. “This opportunity came up, and I thought it would be interesting.”

Wait, did a Division I football player just say “free time” in the middle of a season?

“Yeah, that sounds strange, but you just have to manage your time wisely,” he explained. “Know what you have to get done, and find the time to do it.”

As a teaching assistant, Dyke oversees recitation for a portion of the class, about 40 students. He spends an hour each Tuesday and Thursday morning reinforcing some important exercises from the three hours of lecture each week, as well as answering students’ questions. Teaching assistants are also required to help grade papers and facilitate tutoring labs.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Dyke said. “I’ve learned a lot, probably more than my students have. You realize that not everyone learns the same way, so it’s a real challenge.”

As a fifth-year senior, Dyke has had to brush up on some of his freshman math skills. He says it hasn’t been too difficult, since many of the concepts are applied in his engineering classes. However, he shanks one every now and then.

“My students are smart,” he emphasized. “I’ve got a good class. They probably stump me at least once a week.”

Just a few of the students are aware that Dyke suits up for the Yellow Jackets on Saturdays, but he points out that many aren’t football fans, so they see him as just another freshman instructor.

Probably even fewer know that Dyke was initially turned away from the team his freshman year. The Winter Springs, Fla., native persisted and eventually joined the team as a walk-on in the spring of 1999. He has since become one of the ACC’s best punters.

Dyke isn’t alone in the athlete/teaching assistant ranks. All-American swimmer Shilo Ayalon teaches another portion of the same calculus class. Dr. Tom Morley, a professor in the School of Mathematics, handles the lecture portion of the class and oversees both Dyke and Ayalon.

He believes their backgrounds as top athletes make them more effective teachers.

“I think it certainly helps in terms of them not being afraid to stand up in front of people and make a fool of yourself,” he joked. “Seriously, there are definitely some common abilities that they’ve been able to utilize.”

“It’s a different kind of stress,” Ayalon explained. “It helps that you know you can perform in front of a crowd.”

Dr. Morley has delivered rave reviews thus far, and Dyke is contemplating signing on next semester as well.

“Mr. Dyke works well without a lot of supervision,” said Dr. Morley. “He shows great presence of mind while teaching, carefully answering the students’ questions or going over problems.”

On the field, Dyke is finishing his final season on The Flats splitting time with fellow punter Chris Morehouse. He is averaging over 40 yards a kick and has a chance to finish as the school’s all-time leader in per-kick average.

Regardless, Dyke’s name will be permanently etched in the Tech record books as one of the school’s most successful student-athletes. Few football players have matched Dyke’s prowess in the classroom.

He is set to graduate this December and is considering graduate school programs, possibly in biomedical engineering. A President’s Scholar, Dyke has a 3.88 GPA and is applying for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

In the meantime, Dyke is attempting to keep his moonlighting quiet. Few of Dyke’s teammates are aware of his teaching gig, and he would like to keep it that way.

“That’s why I haven’t told them when or where the class is,” he laughed. “The last thing I need is for them to show up.”


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