Becoming “Dr.” Kelderman


Brooke Sliva

Kelderman has spent his last five years working on grad-school, but he was able to get a Master’s Degree and now his doctorate out of this time and effort. “I have been taking classes to complete my program for two years and then 1 year of completing my dissertation, “Kelderman said. “I am very excited to be done and love the atmosphere and increased freedom that I have teaching at the college level that isn’t always there in the high school. Because of this, I started looking into doctoral programs about 5 years ago” Kelderman put in the effort to finish hoping to learn more about how students work towards what they think is success in his classroom.

Brooke Sliva, Social Media Manager

Math teacher Brent Kelderman finished his doctoral program journey leaving him with a doctorate in education and a better understanding of how students define success in the classroom.

Kelderman’s motivation started almost five years ago knowing that this achievement would increase freedom to higher level classrooms inside and outside of the high school. Kelderman has been taking classes to complete this doctoral program for two years, along with one year of working towards completing his dissertation. It would have taken longer, but Kelderman was able to count all his other graduate classes he completed for his master’s degree and beyond towards completion of this degree.

Kelderman had a long list of credits and course work he needed to complete at University of Nebraska Lincoln in order to receive his doctorate. He had to complete 84 credit hours of coursework (which is 28 classes), plus the dissertation (research paper) he had to finish and give a speech on. He focused his dissertation on how students define academic success. 

The dissertation has a few stages other than just writing an essay. It started  with the Comps — a version of a ‘comprehensive’ exam where Kelderman had to propose his idea and give a 20 minute presentation to the committee connecting everything he was wanting to do. This led into a full proposal — an official write-up of what he wanted to research about. This stage of the process had many critiques and it was very important to listen to all the feedback and apply it. Kelderman still wasn’t able to start writing his dissertation until after the approval to do research. This is a long process of going through what is called an Institutional Review Board approval which always has at least one stage of going back and forth with making adjustments and clarifying things. 

Finally, Kelderman was able to begin his writing. He had to go through conducting the research, analyzing the data collected, writing up findings and then sending the dissertation to the committee readers. After months of collecting data and writing he had to give a defense speech as the last step in getting his doctorate. It is another 20-30 minute presentation with the committee to say what was done and what was learned.

“As a teacher, I have had experience on both sides of the classroom and I know ‘success’ is somewhat hard to consistently define,” Kelderman said. “Because of this, I wanted to better understand how students define success so that I, as a teacher, can better help my students meet their various definitions of ‘success’ in my classroom.”

Going through a process like this isn’t easy; it takes a lot of time and effort. You need great support, and for Kelderman he had his wife by his side the whole time. Special education teacher Sara Kelderman helped him read through the material at almost every stage to help improve the quality of his work and point out repetitiveness. She also supported and helped by allowing Kelderman to take all of these classes and invest all of the time and money into completing the program. 

“He is pretty self-motivated and finishing his dissertation was motivation enough,” Sara Kelderman said. “I did my best to give him space to work and then reminders and encouragement to keep moving forward. Home life didn’t change much, because I am currently working on a degree myself, so we have homework dates. We sit down with a movie in the background and both work on assignments for graduate school.”

As well as 12 recent graduates from Millard West who helped Kelderman collect data in April and May of 2021, English teacher Delanie Shult helped proofread a lot of his dissertation for grammar and spelling errors. Many other conversations took place throughout his journey among a few other colleagues of Kelderman and administrators to get support and help him think through things.

Kelderman’s life ahead will be improved greatly regardless of where he decides his future will take him. Having the data and information from his dissertation will help him be a more helpful teacher by allowing himself to better understand how his students are defining success.

“Kelderman has many ways he helps his students stay successful in class,” senior Ava Konwinski said. “He gives us opportunities to retake and correct quizzes and tests. This keeps the class grades up and helps us achieve the success we are looking for.”

Kelderman worked hard towards this goal. The feeling of being done with paying to go to college and the goal of having more free time to fully enjoy his classroom time with his students is already showing in the classroom. Kelderman stayed focused throughout this time and is very thankful to be done. His supporters who helped him throughout his journey for higher education now call him by a new title: Dr. Kelderman”.