A Quiet Legacy
For 32 years she’s gotten up early to sit by the window and do her devotions. She reads and prays and then gets ready for school. Some of us can’t wait to graduate high school or college so we can be done with school forever. And then there are a special few who spend their lives going to school. My Mom is one of the special few.
She started teaching at that little country school in the middle of Iowa – some would say the middle of nowhere. I’m still curious what sold that young single woman, fresh out of college, on the idea of moving to farm country Iowa – far away from her entire family in Michigan. Fueled on excitement about her first teaching job, she started her career at Timothy Christian School just outside of Wellsburg, Iowa. She taught three grades in one room, I believe; kindergarten, first and second.
And then a student had her over for supper and she was introduced to a nice young man who would later ask her out on a date. She spilled her pop all over him and maybe that’s when he fell in love. They got married and a few years later she put her teacher books up on a shelf so she could stay home and take care of a baby who was born pretty sick, but recovered. She wasn’t going to take time for granted. What a lesson to learn as a brand new Momma. And then there were a few more babies.
And you would be wrong if you thought she’d put her teacher ways away for a while. She had three little students observing her and listening to her and learning from her for more hours a day than any kiddos in a classroom. We were her pupils and our lessons were on life and love and faith and grace. Instead of textbooks we had library books. Instead of science experiments we lived with childish abandon on a farm with ample amounts of play time. Instead of a classroom there was an old farmhouse short on amenities but big on love. And one by one we reached that big milestone of five years old and off we would go, one little footstep at a time, walking into that same school where Mom spent years before.
And as the littles were not so little anymore, Mom went back to teaching part time. And a few years later she was a full time 5th and 6th grade teacher. Which is where she remained ever since. Granted, there were adventures with junior high subjects when she was team teaching, but for the most part she has spent her day with 10 and 11 year olds for a long long time.
She’s taught generations –boys who grew up to become daddies and then their sons and daughters. When you find your passion and your heart is burdened with love for teaching you can spend 32 years faithfully working in the same exact role. There aren’t promotions. There may be a raise or two, but those are a far cry from the salary of counterparts who work in public schools. There are few if any accolades. What you get are homemade Christmas ornaments, scrawled notes and pictures from students, and invitations to all their big moments in life.
If you were a student of my Mom and you invited her to your piano recital, or your dance recital, or to a play you were in you can bet she would be there. Just like someone in your family – just like someone who loved you and enjoyed seeing you succeed. Because she did.
I never personally had her for a teacher in a school setting. My brother and sister both had the pleasure of seeing her in action, but I cannot give a first-hand accounting of what she was like in the classroom. What I do know is what I have heard. She was not a passive teacher. She was active. She corrected everyone’s grammar and made it her life’s mission to make us all use “lie” and “lay” in the appropriate manner. She moved around the classroom. She was vibrant and energetic and intense. She fell asleep for every single video or movie ever watched in her class. She gave out prizes for extra credit. She set up an incubator in her room where they would hatch baby chicks. She did all the things a teacher is supposed to do, special things that great teachers do, and wonderful things that exceptional teachers do. She was strict, but she could be silly and fun. She was demanding, but she also did a hilarious chicken song and dance.
A little more than a year ago, my Dad retired from his years of factory work. I would say he retired from farming but I learned a long time ago that you never really retire from farming. It stays in your blood and you will still find a way to farm even if all you have to farm is a small patch of land or a big garden. And now it is time for Mom to start a new adventure of her own. Her years of teaching were wonderful and a blessing to her – just as I believe they were a blessing to so so many. But she feels great peace as she moves out of her classroom this last time. No matter what path her life takes from here, she will always be a teacher.
This is what I loved about my Mom’s profession. She got to do something she loved to do and she was great at it. She will take a lifetime of memories from it and cherish the stories and the children and parents that she poured her heart and soul into. But I also know that there are many people in this world who loved her in return. They saw the wonderful, unique, dramatic, vibrant, lively, and spirited woman I am blessed to call Mom. And though they called her Mrs. Vande Voort, I believe they share a small piece of my love and admiration for all the beauty and grace and humor with which she lives. As you get older it is great to hear other people talk about how much they love and admire and respect your parents. And I am doubly blessed to have two fantastic God-fearing parents who have lived every day of their entire lives in His service.
That’s what these 32 years have been – and all the years in between, before and after too . They’ve all been in service of the King. I know that Mom took her role seriously. I know that helping her students succeed academically was important to her. But I know that even more importantly, she hoped and prayed to point her students to Christ. And I know that every day they sat in her classroom she did just that.
She didn’t want a retirement party or going away celebration. She wanted to just finish her year well and go quietly home to her husband. So there will be no big bash. No cake and punch. Well…we might have to have cake. No groups of people standing around to thank her and wish her well. But I’m standing up and applauding. I’m praying her through this her last day. And I’m thanking her for just being the person she is – loving, graceful, fun, honest and faithful.
I am so honored to be her daughter and so proud to say “Well done, Mrs. Vande Voort. You were a good and faithful servant of your Savior and you showed Christ’s love to generations of kids. What a legacy you leave.”