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Dordt College News

Dordt College Alum Retiring after serving last 26 years in Ireton, Iowa

May 25, 2007

by Bekah Porter, Staff Writer
Reprinted w/permission from NW Iowa Review

Students and co-workers alike cite his gentle smile and his kind manner as his most inspiring traits. Others mention his Christian attitude and his willingness to reach out to people. Whether or not they remember the math equation he wrote on the board, they all remember him as a teacher of life. Stan Vanden Berg, member of the Dordt College class of 1961, plans to retire after spending 26 years at Ireton Christian School. He began teaching at Sheldon Christian School in 1963, and a few years later, he attained an administration position and continued in that field until last year, when he handed his principal position to Ireton teacher Marlin Schoonhoven, member of the Dordt College class of 1990. Before the 65-year-old looks ahead to a life without the chalkboards, desks and lesson plans, Vanden Berg looks back on one filled with many life lessons:

Q: Why did you want to pursue a Christian teaching career?
A: I grew up attending Christian schools,and I wanted to havea place where I couldbe free to express my Christian faith through my teaching on a daily basis.

Q: Why did you choose to spend the majority of your career in Iretona?
A: The close family atmosphere and the support of the parents, grandparents - the community, really.

Q: Everybody wants to leave a place better than when they came. What contributions do you think you made to the school?
A: I believe I've helped to open the school to a broader community than it was originally. It tended to be limited mostly to Christian Reformed families, and now we have a much more diverse student body.

Q: How do you view your students?
A: For one thing, I view them as created in the image of God, and I want to bring that image out as much as possible.

Q: How do you think they view you?
A: I hope that they see me as firm and fair, but with a sense of humor.

Q: With more than 40 years of teaching, surely you have some memories that still make you laugh. Any you care to share? A: Oh, yes. There was eighth-grade girl who wasn't the goofy type - she was very prim and proper - and she leaned back in her chair too far, and trying to stop from falling, she grabbed the desk and brought it right back down on top of her. To see her lying there with the desk on her, and with those big eyes, and to try to keep from laughing, well, I don't know if I managed to keep from laughing a little.

Q: What do you want people to know about your retirement?
A: As I look back over my years, I don't regret any of it, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to impact a lot of students' lives.

Q: What are your plans for retirement?
A: That is open yet. At this point, it may be helping some smaller schools with no administration or some substitute teaching. I hope to do some volunteer work.

Q: How do you think the school will be different without you?
A: I think some good things are that with new people in new positions, there will be new ideas. Hopefully, they'll build on what we have and continue to improve. Already, Mr. (Marlin) Schoonhoven, as a new administrator, has made some changes, and I think, "Oh, why didn'tI think of that?" Just some fresh ideas.

Q: Will you miss the school? A: I think so. Mostly I'll miss working with the kids, and also, the fellowship with the staff and other administrators. What I won't miss is correcting papers at night.

WHAT THEY SAY:

"I think his gentleness has inspired me to be more kind to the students. I would say his greatest qualities would be his kindness and his gentleness. He was always fair and consistent in how he dealt with the teachers, and when he critiqued me in the classroom, he asked me what my Christian perspective was. That made me prepare more and think ahead more as to how I would incorporate Christian perspective in my teachings."
Mary Goslinga first- and second-grade teacher, Dordt College grad of 1973

"He's a really good teacher. He explains everything really good - like math. He's funny. He makes us laugh. He'll tell us a joke or play a joke on us."
Brandon Bonnema eighth-grader

"He improved community relations with his quiet and kind attitude. The longer he was here, the more the town realized this wasn't just a school for Christian Reformed. He welcomed other kids. Students accepted how he encouraged them to get along and work together."
Jan Fedders third- and fourth-grade teacher

"He can make things fun for any class. He'll make a funny noise or funny face to make what we're learning more fun."
Katie Ten Napel eighth-grader

"The kids have a respect for him, but they also like him because he is trustworthy and he follows through on things. He's genuine, and he truly wants to help. He's not out for personal gain."
Marlin Schoonhoven, administrator

Name: Stan Vanden Berg
Education: Attended Dordt College for two years; received teaching degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI; earned master's degree in school administration from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Experience: Taught at Sheldon Christian School 1963-1966; served as administrator at Rock Rapids Christian School 1966-1970, Ocheyedan Christian School 1970-1975, Des Moines Christian School 1975-1980, and Ireton Christian School 1980- 2006. He retired from administration last year to spend his last year teaching.
Family: Wife, Beth; three children; three grandchildren.
Hobbies: Music and gardening.

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