By Kara Veldman
You may have noticed Jim Hollingsworth walking around the Whatcom Community College campus in shorts every day no matter what the weather outside is like.
“I just got in the habit of wearing shorts every day. They are more comfortable, take less time to iron, and are less expensive than pants,” he said.
Hollingsworth, 78, has been a math teacher at Whatcom for over 20 years now.
“It’s one of those things you just come every day and lose track of time.” Loretta Stribling, an English teacher at Whatcom, shares an office with Hollingsworth. “He is such a generous person. I love the way he goes all out for his students,” she said. “As a colleague, I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
Born in Woodland, Northern California, he was raised with a twin sister, an older brother, and three older sisters.
“I grew up in a bloody patriarchy!” said Hollingsworth. “One sister, every time I said a swear word she would wash my mouth out with soap. Another sister acted as my social dictator, always planning parties for me.”
Hollingsworth graduated from Sacramento State University, and then transferred to Western Washington University, where he got his Master’s degree in geography. He and his wife, Karen, have been together for 38 years and have one daughter and two grandchildren.
“I have a wonderful wife, I’m very lucky,” Hollingsworth said. “I’ve been very lucky in life.”
This quarter he is teaching an arithmetic fractions/decimals course for two credits. He said he likes to tell a few jokes and smile on the first day of classes.
“It helps get students settled in,” he said, adding that, “classes are like people, each class is a different personality. I like to get to know each class.”
Karen Picard, 61, is in her third class with Hollingsworth. “He’s got a dry sense of humor,” she said. “A lot of humor.”
He said his hobbies include reading, going to “indie movies” at the Pickford Film Center, gardening, sharing time with his wife, white-water rafting, kayaking, and especially traveling.
“As a kid I had a huge map hanging up in my room and I would dream of places I wanted to go,” he said. “I wish more people could travel because you can see the world in different eyes. It’s so educational. Often people have misconceptions of places that get fixed when they go visit.”
Hollingsworth said he has been to at least 15 different places including; Indonesia, Cambodia, the Galapagos Islands, Egypt, and China.
“The Earth is a book, if you haven’t traveled you haven’t even read the first page,” he said. “Every place we’ve gone everybody has been so nice. We’ve made many friends, always being open and joking. We always take stuff with us to give to people. What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. Smile, laugh, and try and learn a few words in that language, it makes a lot of difference.”
One major thing he said he and his wife have learned is often people in different countries have so little, yet they are so much happier than people in America are.
“They all have dreams, but they aren’t possessive and want to accumulate stuff. They just enjoy the people there and what they have,” he said.
Hollingsworth has worked many different jobs, from being a welder, working for the government, working in insurance, to working in the seafood industry for 20 years. Starting as a fish processor, he worked his way up to a crew manager and foreman, eventually transferring to Redland and became corporate safety manager. Every six to eight weeks he would travel to Dutch Harbor in Alaska. Being a math teacher at Whatcom has been one of his favorite jobs.
“The students is what makes my job here so enjoyable and fun,” he said. “He is a very good teacher, always making things simple and keeping the class interesting,” Picard said. “He has an open policy book, which means you can call him at home anytime and he will answer.”
Hollingsworth and his wife also try to go to every sporting event at Whatcom.
“We like to support the local teams,” he said.
He remembers all of the details of every exciting game, and is happy to recount it for anyone that will listen.
Almost every holiday Hollingsworth dresses up. In the past years on Halloween he has dressed up as a dragon and as a woman, and for Valentine ’s Day he wears bright red pants with a “fun-colored shirt.”
“This year it will be a little different color combination. I will also try and give every lady a Hershey’s kiss. It’s just something to make a little enjoyment for people and have a little fun,” he said. “I also enjoy embarrassing the guys in my class.”
Hollingsworth says to students, “choose something you like to do, something that you enjoy. Don’t fall into the trap of just wanting to make a lot of money. You want to go to work every day and like it. Money isn’t the best way to run your life: it just gives a lot of headaches.”
He also added, “Have a sense of humor. People without a sense of humor don’t have much fun.”