Highland Christian School teacher Rick Vander Woude is one of two Indiana teachers to receive the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award.
Selected by the National History Day organization in May, the award is given to teachers who show outstanding creativity, commitment and inspiration in developing student interest in history.
Vander Woude, who teaches history and computers to grades six to eight, was awarded $500 and joined three Highland Christian students recognized for contest entries.
“It’s a great honor. One gets a sense that one’s labors have borne fruit. I think the credit goes to my students, who have performed very well in regional and state contests,” Vander Woude said.
“National History Day makes history come alive for students by engaging them in the discovery of the historical, cultural and social experiences of the past. Students are challenged to dig deeper into history.”
Vander Woude is particularly known for drawing students in and making history fun.
“I enjoy giving perspectives on the past to young people, most of whom know very little about the past. It’s great to see a light bulb go on when students discover new information,” he said.
“Many approaches can make a subject interesting. Great multimedia materials, field trips, and projects can help instill an interest in students,” he added.
Vander Woude, 59, attended Illiana Christian High School and graduated in 1977 from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.
“Early on in middle school, one of my teachers encouraged me to teach and since that time I had seriously considered it,” he said.
Vander Woude resides in St. John with his wife, Sharon, and enjoys biking, hiking and traveling. Their son, David, is a teacher in the Andes Mountains in Colombia, South America.