Loading

The Long and the Hjort of It Math teacher finds God in baking and in the classroom

story by Lisa Metro for the winter 2020 issue of Saint Ignatius Magazine

One may not immediately equate “Care of God’s Creation” as part of Math curriculum, but in Dennis Hjort’s sophomore geometry class, it makes perfect sense. Hjort ’01 is incorporating Catholic Social Teaching into his class as a way of showing his students how math can be relevant to their everyday life.

“Our call to be in service to one another is not limited to theology class or service activities,” he notes.

Students worked together in small groups, with each group selecting an issue to research and find data or statistics pertaining to the issue. Many students chose the recent wildfires in Australia. They used math to come up with word problems to better explain the situation. Hjort believes group projects offer students perspective, giving them the opportunity to receive feedback from someone other than their teacher. And, working as a group teaches collaboration.

Just prior to joining Saint Ignatius High School in 2015, Hjort worked as a campus minister and math teacher at Magnificat High School. That experience gives him an important perspective that he brings to Saint Ignatius students, according to Department Chair Dave Sabol ‘99.

“He finds creative and authentic ways to incorporate the school's Catholic mission into his work in the classroom, like the Catholic Social Teaching project he runs through geometry,” says Sabol.

Hjort’s Catholic faith is an integral part of his teaching.

“People ask, ‘Where do you see God in math?’” Hjort says. “Math is considered God’s language. Everything can be modeled with a mathematical creation. That fascinates me. It’s like reading God’s blueprints.”

Outside of the classroom, Hjort is a baker by hobby. There’s a precision in baking that appeals to the mathematician in him. He was moderator of the now defunct extracurricular, Bakers for Others, until last year. The group donated their baked good to Friends with L’Arche and were well regarded for their chocolate chip scones.

“It was fun,” he recalls. “We had 10 consistent guys. When they graduated, it faded. Now, I’m hoping to revive it and am looking for the appropriate space on campus.”

Like most Saint Ignatius faculty members. Hjort loves teaching and views it as his vocation. His greatest sense of satisfaction is when he promotes the mission of the school or is able to show students how they are indeed Men for Others. His greatest reward, he says, is in teaching sophomores and watching them mature over the course of an academic year.

“They begin with freshman hesitation and evolve to sophomores trying to find themselves,” he says. “By the end of the year, they are hitting their stride and ready to keep going.”

GETTING TO KNOW DENNIS HJORT '01

  • Holds a bachelor's degree in Math from John Carroll University
  • Has a master's from Loyola University Chicago in Community Development and Social Justice
  • Has an annual bake-fest with family members, producing 300 Paczkis
  • Married to Liz, who works as a Campus Minister at Magnificat High School
  • Father of Andy (age 4) and Felicity (age 18 months)
  • His favorite thing about being a dad is hearing his children laugh

BAKERS FOR OTHERS CHOCOLATE CHIP SCONES RECIPE

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 to 2 cups fair trade chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Cut the butter into pats and incorporate into the dry ingredient mixture. It is OK if some pea-sized pieces of butter remain.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips. Usually about half a bag is good, but you can add the full 2 cups if you like.
  4. In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla extract.
  5. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the dough holds together. You might not need all the liquid mixture or you might need to add a little more milk.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or use an un-greased baking sheet if you do not have parchment) and drop evenly sized portions (about 1/3 cup each) of the dough onto the parchment, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Place baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes and pre-heat oven to 375* F.
  8. Bake scones for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are golden brown. (
  9. Yields: 12 scones