“Now, with computerization, a person can push a button and a machine will practically adjust itself,” he added. “That’s great for routine work in the lab, but not necessarily good for students trying to learn how an instrument works.”
Former students will remember Hiebert both for his unique way of presenting course material and for his emphasis on pushing them toward deeper understanding of the machines that science has come to rely on.
Hiebert said he sought ways to engage his students with an eye on teaching critical thinking skills and frequently turned to examples of physics and chemistry in action in places where others might not notice nature in action.
For example, on a sunny afternoon in June, a person driving down west of Hillsboro on 190th can take the banked turn most comfortably at a certain speed. But what would happen if that person tried to take the turn at that same speed on an icy day in January?
And with enough encouragement and practice, Hiebert’s students would think through the problem, work through the necessary math, and decide whether or not the turn could be made safely in the often frictionless world of ideal physics.
Exam questions inspired by everyday life and geared to create in students the urge to ask the unquenchable questions applied to all that is mundane.
“Watch a 2-year-old when he loses his balance, or push him a little, and watch how they use their arms—you’ll see a person figuring out rotational inertia and momentum,” Hiebert said.
His post-retirement plans include spending more time with his children and grandchildren, people he often observed while figuring out how physics works.
“It’s all the same kids, and they still like us,” he said.
Other plans include keeping up with developments in the faith-and-science arena and supporting Tabor any way he can.
That includes attending drama, music and athletic events, and finishing “some projects at home that have waited about 23 years for attention.”
Travel plans will take him from Hillsboro to the Rocky Mountains over the summer, to Wisconsin in August and to Georgia and South Carolina after that.
“Most of that is for grandkids’ birthdays and for various family events,” he said.
The 1963 Tabor graduate was first attracted to the teaching profession because he enjoyed helping his classmates in high school and college, as well as student teaching.
As a graduate assistant while in graduate school, Hiebert found that teaching at that level was more rewarding.
“I’ve been in the college classroom and laboratories ever since,” he said.
As a Tabor faculty member, Hiebert has served on numerous committees, including academic policies, enrollment management, strategic planning, library, athletic advisory, landscape, faculty personnel and search committees for two presidents, two vice presidents and numerous faculty.
He also was the faculty representative on the college’s board of directors, and was the first recipient of the Clarence R. Hiebert Excellence in Teaching Award.
Hiebert was chair of the Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at the time of his retirement.
“Seeing young people develop through their college years is very rewarding,” he said, “and then meeting them in the years after graduation and seeing how they have continued to mature after college is icing on the cake.”