Joel Gallegos performs with dance partner Claire Honerman on December 14, 2021, in St. Paul. Gallegos is a math professor at the Dougherty Family College.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Humans of St. Thomas: DFC Math Professor Is a Professional Dancer

In the classroom, Dougherty Family College Math 101 Professor Joel Gallegos uses his love for dance to foster an environment that uplifts creativity and movement. Outside of the classroom, Gallegos is an avid, multi-style dancer in the Twin Cities. He earned his master’s degree in mathematics at San Francisco State University and taught at the University of Minnesota prior to becoming a clinical faculty member at the University of St. Thomas.

Tell me a little bit about your position at St Thomas. 

I teach the mathematics course at Dougherty Family College. I teach solely the Math 101 course. All of us have a cohort, or mentoring group, so that is also part of my responsibility.  

I am a dancer outside of teaching.  

Joel Gallegos dances on Dec. 14, 2021, in St. Paul.

When did you first begin to dance? 

I really started training about two years ago, but I have been dancing for a while. I don’t think I knew what I was signing up for at the beginning, to be honest. I am an athlete and I played college soccer, so I enjoy the training aspect of it.  

When I started training pretty rigorously for dance, then it caught my attention. I like music and dancing.  

I train at two studios: ALL DAY Studio and Four Seasons Dance Studio. I am one of the directors, and the other directors and I teach at The Workroom as well.  

What types of dance do you enjoy? 

Bachata, salsa, merengue and zouk. We incorporate ballet and contemporary too.  

How has dance influenced your work at St. Thomas? 

I am trying to find ways to incorporate dance in the class because, let’s be honest, math is not everyone’s favorite. I try to incorporate music or in some way movement. Trying to relate that to mathematics is a challenging goal, but a goal for me. It has challenged me in terms of teaching.  

It has lightened the mood in my class. It has created a fun and more inclusive environment.  

I start off with the music that I want, but people want to get involved and be creative. Maybe the class is quiet, and maybe it is not, but usually there are a few people who request music, which we try.  

It creates this inclusivity in terms of featuring different music and different cultures. It brings the class together.  

Joel Gallegos performs with dance partner Claire Honerman on Dec. 14, 2021, in St. Paul.

Outside of St. Thomas, what are some hobbies you enjoy doing? 

I play soccer. I enjoy cooking as well. I am a bit of a traveler. Because of either my research or dance, I travel a good amount of time. Typically, about three to four times a year. 

My favorite spot is South America. I used to live in Chile for a while and then in Peru for some time after that.  

What is a course you wish was taught at St. Thomas? 

There needs to be a bachata class. I would always choose a bachata class. It is a type of dance I do. It is like salsa; it is another version of salsa. It stems from the Dominican Republic.  

What is at the top of your bucket list? 

I want to get a house by the beach so I can dance and play soccer on the beach.