Above the Rim Spotlight: Daniel Duitsman
From class time to courtside, how one CU grad student keeps his eye on the ball
For most grad students, focusing on coursework is more than enough to keep them busy. Yet for Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) student Daniel Duitsman, becoming a teacher is just part of his story. It’s a tale of small classes and big dreams, red-shirts and white cells, and what it means to be the old man of the Concordia Men’s Basketball Team.
Local athlete makes good
When Daniel Duitsman was a little kid growing up in Beaverton, he fell in love with basketball. “We always had a hoop outside our house. So I would go out and shoot baskets, or my dad would come out and shoot with me. Even though I played a lot of sports, basketball was the one that was always most exciting to me – the one I wanted to do better at.” And become better he did, eventually playing for the Sunset Apollos on his varsity high school team.
Originally, Duitsman had already decided to go to a large state school. Then in the spring of his senior year, he got a call from Brad Barbarick, Concordia University head basketball coach, asking him to come to a few open gyms. “The next thing I knew, he offered me a scholarship and I’m a Concordia Cavalier!”
And how did he feel about going from a giant school to a small university? “I ended up being very happy,” he says. “Just having this small, tight-knit community made me want to go to class every day and made me want to see everyone. I thrive being in small classes and being able to have discussions and know your professors on a first-name basis, which is awesome. It’s not something you’ll find at a big state school.”
Making facts and figures fun
As an undergrad here at Concordia University, Duitsman received his degree in accounting. So why the extra step of obtaining a Master of Arts in Teaching? “In high school, I had a really good accounting teacher who also taught business classes. He was great at making the subject matter exciting and making everyone want to come to class. He was also one of my basketball coaches and he always brought this really high energy to class.” Over time, Duitsman realized that he could combine his accounting background with a degree in teaching. “I’d like to be the kind of accounting teacher I had in high school,” he says.
“I have cancer, I can do what I want.”
When Daniel Duitsman was in third grade, his mother – who he cites as the most inspirational person in his life – was diagnosed with breast cancer. “At first I just thought she had the flu or something. I didn’t really understand it until I saw her start losing her hair. I was like ‘that’s not what happens when you get sick. I’ve had strep throat before and I didn’t lose my hair.'” Two years later, in 2005, she went into remission.
Then in 2013, doctors found breast cancer again. But it had spread to four different areas – none of which could be operated on. “My mom is a fourth grade teacher – another reason I want to teach, actually. She does chemo for two weeks, then has two weeks off. Even when she’s having treatment, she still teaches. I know she’s always exhausted, especially after treatment, but seeing what she goes through makes everything seem not as bad as it could be. If I roll my ankle, I’m like ‘well at least I don’t have cancer’ and it’s kind of the family joke. If my mom is tired and we make fun of her, she says ‘guys, I have cancer, shut up, I can do what I want’ and we all laugh. She’s been dealing with it for so long that it’s just part of our lives.”
He also credits his father for being the backbone of the family. “He’s always been super supportive. I mean he’s been to every sporting event I’ve played in. He’ll drive all the way up to Bellingham when we play Western Washington just to watch us play. I’d definitely say my parents are the people I look up to most for inspiration.”
Old man on campus
These days, when you don’t find Duitsman in a graduate education class or doing homework, you can find him on the court in the Concordia gym. As an undergrad on the men’s basketball team, he tore his meniscus but didn’t know it. Thinking it was a hamstring strain, he used heat and continued to work out. “At the end of practice one day, when it felt the best, I squatted down and felt a pop and thought ‘oooo, that’s not good!’ When I stood up, I couldn’t walk.” So he red-shirted that year and ended up having knee surgery.
Now that’s he’s still playing as a grad student, he gets a lot of ribbing from his teammates. “I get the old man jokes all the time,” he says with a laugh. “Even though I’m only a year or two older than most of them.
“I’m really glad I came to Concordia. I’ve made some really great friends, I have good connections with the professors, and basketball wise, these guys are my family. I looked up to the older guys on the team when I was a freshman and sophomore, and now I have that role for the younger guys. It’s cool to see it go full circle.”