People to Know: Dan Seppala


Dan Seppala

Look before you leap

What is the probability that you will find a teacher that teaches statistics, went to Apple Valley, and studied chemical engineering?

The answer? Well, if you walk around the math department enough there is 100% chance of running into Dan Seppala.

Seppala grew up in Apple Valley. He attended Southview Elementary, Valley Middle, and graduated from AVHS in 1998.  After high school, he faced the dilemma of deciding between a career in chemical engineering and teaching.

“I decided to go to the U of M to start in chemical engineering, figuring if I changed my mind it would be easier to switch there.” And deep in the labs of the University of Minnesota, a young Dan Seppala realized this is not what he wanted. So he finished his undergraduate degree in mathematics, but continued on to get a master’s degree in mathematics education.

But despite all the math, he says that he chose to teach it for a different reason. “I wanted to be around people, to work with kids…I knew that math is something people can really struggle with and I wanted to be able to help them.”

During his time in college, he still coached volleyball at Apple Valley, so he had strong ties to our community. As soon as he graduated from college, he realized he wanted to come back to AVHS. And luck would have it that there was an opening in the Math Department in our high school and Dan Seppala got the job.

Teaching at Apple Valley has been his first and only job as a teacher.

Mr. Seppala and his glacier
Dan Seppala
Mr. Seppala and his glacier

He’s taught everything from geometry to ‘College Linear Algebra and Differential Equations’(CLADE). (Don’t ask what that is–you don’t want to know.) But as soon as the statistics class opened up, Seppala knew that was the job for him. Back in 1998, he was one of the first students in America to take AP Stats. And from that first class to today, he has enjoyed the real-world application of statistics.

One of the most recent changes in Seppala’s teaching career is taking on the new CLADE class. The class of 2016 was the first to have the opportunity to take this level of math at AVHS. When the rumor started that AVHS was going to offer this course, not many teachers jumped at the opportunity to take on a class of that caliber…except Mr. Seppala.

He ended up retaking AP Calculus the year before CLADE was taught just so he could brush up on those skills he learned in college. He even took the AP test! That is true dedication to the job.

Under Seppala’s guidance, CLADE is running without a hiccup. “Most teachers would drive a class like that making kids work twice as hard. To me, I know we’ll get through the same material as a semester class, but I don’t want to make the kids wonder if they made a bad choice taking it.”

Photography is one of Seppala's many hobbies
Dan Seppala
Photography is one of Seppala’s many hobbies

One aspect of Seppala many students see everyday is his philosophy to teach outside the classroom. No, he’s not actually leaving the building during the day, but he does try to make math a vehicle for real world application. He shows his students ‘Joy and inspiration from the world around you,’ or JIFWAY: moving and brilliant videos, photographs, and stories that otherwise would go unnoticed.

“There is value here,” said Seppala. “These bright, sharp students who are going on to do great things. It’s an opportunity to connect somebody with an idea that might give them direction or change the world.”

Sophomore Serena Abraham recognizes how comforting and understanding Seppala is:  “He understands that being a student can be tough and helps with the little boost to get me through the rest of the day. Also our Tea Tuesdays are amazing. Who doesn’t want hot chocolate?”

Seppala says, “I find extreme value in being able to unplug, even if it’s for three minutes.” JIFWAYs are optional, but they bring smiles to the faces of the most stressed out students.

Mr. Seppala doesn’t just care about what goes on in his classroom but about his student’s lives and their well-being. Senior Kyle Bergevin says, “He has such a positive and joking teaching style that makes you want to listen. And there is a genuine feeling that he cares about who we become after his class.”

Seppala takes the time to hear what his students need; he knows that we can only stretch so far when it comes to school work. Senior Payton Parmett is a student in Mr. Seppala’s CLADE class. She says, “He makes class really interesting and he has a ton of cool interests and talents. He’s considerate to all of his students, and I have so much respect for him.”

From statistics to real life stories, Mr. Seppala brings out the best in math.


Mr. Seppala and his wife, Mary
Dan Seppala
Mr. Seppala and his wife, Mary


  •      Food: Really good Italian
  •      Color: Yellow. “It’s just a happier color. It’s a little more cheery, a little more energizing.”
  •      Store: REI
  •      Quote: “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities seize common occasions and make them great.”
  •      TV show: the Office
  •      Personality: Concrete sequential with an emotional side
  •      Life lesson: “Make an effort to pursue and increase your own happiness”