Dordt College News

Schaap leaves elementary school after 42 years

June 4, 2009


By Renee Nyhof for the Siouxland Press, reprinted by permission

Being “governor” was not Arlyn Schaap’s dream job when he graduated from Dordt College in 1967 with a chemistry major, math minor, and an endorsement in secondary education. Instead, he wanted to teach high school science.

But when Randy Hilbelink, the eighth grade Social Studies teacher at Orange City Christian School, asked Schaap to be “governor” in order to sign or veto four bills the class had created, Schaap couldn’t say no.

As OCCS principal, participating in classroom activities like that helps keep him active in the school beyond just doing his administrative duties: a goal he has spent 42 years—18 of those at OCCS—trying to do.

Yet, the end of June marked the last days of Schaap’s participation within the elementary school due to his retirement.

Parts of Schaap’s legacy at OCCS included creating a committee charged with the task of upgrading the school’s purpose statement, which had not been edited since its birth in 1904. He also helped made education more available for children with special needs, which include children with learning disabilities or who learn at higher rates. And, the students (300 currently) now range from preschoolers (affiliated with Covenant Kids Preschool) to eighth graders, instead of just K-8.

“I’m retiring now because I feel it is time to move on,” said Schaap. “I don’t like staying in one place too long because I feel new people help bring in new ideas. And with new construction plans for the school, as well as new recommendations from the state on where we can improve, I think it’s a good transition time for a new person to come in.”

Schaap had the same experience when he came to OCCS in 1991. At that time, the school renovations included a new gym, kitchen, music room, art room and some office remolding. Coming in as the new principal at that time made him feel more accepted because the school was already prepared for change.

Schaap, who will be 64 in June, never originally planned to be a principal. After he graduated from college, a position to teach sixth, seventh and eighth grade along with being principal opened up at the former Lebanon Christian School (located west of Sioux Center).

“My wife already taught third, fourth and fifth grade there, so I thought it would be a good starting point,” said Schaap.

He did not anticipate that he would split the next 42 years between different positions, all of which included administrative duties. After four years at Lebanon, he taught eighth graders at Ireton Christian and was the school’s principal for five years.

Schaap then moved to Edgerton, where he remained as principal for 15 years before coming to Orange City to be a principal for 18 years.

“I always thought after a few years I’d move up to high school,” said Schaap, “but I enjoyed the elementary age level and the organization behind administrative duties that I couldn’t give up the position.”

Schaap fits naturally into the administrative position according to his administrative assistant, Pat Ahrenholtz, who has worked with Schaap since his arrival at OCCS.

“Arlyn is very detail oriented and very good for the school,” said Ahrenholz. “He has made friends with the students and made the faculty work better together; he’s very hands-on and visible, doing tasks from administration down to bus duty and he’s always very positive.”

The staff’s enthusiasm for their principal not only shows in their words, but also in their actions. Schaap recalls that on his 50th birthday, every staff member gathered in his back yard at 7 a.m., where they stood around one of the cone-shaped parade floats. They all watched as one staff member (dressed as an old woman) popped out of the float and they all sang happy birthday to him. Then, the staff proceeded to put Schaap in a wheel chair on the back of a pickup and paraded him around town.

After recalling that story, Schaap said with a smile, “I’m going to miss the great times I had with the faculty.” He is also going to miss seeing the students, but because Schaap and his wife, Beatrice, live in Orange City, he hopes to continue to make special appearances at OCCS, to possibly be a substitute teacher and to attend schools concerts.

While Schaap does not have and official plans after his retirement, he said he’ll definitely be around this summer to help answer any questions the new OCCS principal, Gale Tien, may have.

Tien will move to Orange City in June from Zeeland, Mich, where
he has been a CSI school consultant for the past five years. Previously, he was a sixth through eighth grade history and Bible teacher in Sully, Iowa, for three years; an administrator for Central Christian School in St. Louis for five years; and an eighth grade Bible and history teacher in St. Louis for 10 years. He has been married for 22 years, has four children, and is presently living in Zeeland, Michigan.

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