Stories from the halls of TDChristian
Find out about TDChristian Alumni over the years by reading through the stories below.
Other alumni stories can be found in the February 2015 edition of the @td.
We would also love to hear from you. Tell us in 300 to 400 words some of what YOU have done since you graduated or were at TDChristian. Or, tell someone else's story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories or ideas.
Finally, don't worry about editing because Debbie (Smith) Sawczak, Class of 77, will do a great job of editing it.
Story #46: Hannah Van Schepen (story by Judy Van Schepen)
Having A Direction
On Saturday, October 25, I went to see my daughter Hannah in Hamilton. Hannah graduated from TD in 2011 and is in her fourth year as an Honours Life Science student at McMaster University. It is her job at this time to be a student, so many of the things she takes from high school relate to studying and learning. Hannah credits TD with helping her develop good time management skills. She also says that her ability to read textbooks quickly and condense the information into a few summarizing points was a skill she learned in her classes at TD. Hannah attributes much of her success in group work at McMaster to the projects she co-completed in a number of her classes in high school. In her words, “Group work in high school prepares you for similar situations in the real world.”
When I asked if there was anything special or significant from her TD experience that has helped or contributed to her present life, Hannah stated that having a faith-based community to fall back on when you need support is essential to life as a university student. For her, it is important to have support from those who share similar values and views in life, to maintain connections with friends and staff members in whom she has full trust, and to have people to converse with when she has questions needing answers.
The advice Hannah gives to high school students and their parents is that it is important to “have a direction and to follow your gut”. But as you learn, you will grow and your ambitions and desires may change. “Don't be afraid to experiment when it comes to deciding where life will go. You don’t need to have your whole future planned out at the age of 18, and changing your mind is not a bad thing. To quote my mom, ‘education is never a waste’”.
Hannah Van Schepen is part of the TDCH Class of 2011. Judy Van Schepen is a teacher at TDChristian.
Story #45: Joel Sjaarda (story by Sean Van Eerden)
To The Heart of the Student
Joel Sjaarda graduated from TDChristian in 2006. He entered the post-secondary period of his life with the goal of becoming a teacher, but imagined that he would end up teaching younger children at a public school. Unexpectedly, he has ended up back at TD, where he currently team-teaches the Internship Block as well as Challenge and Change, a Christian perspectives course; he also coaches basketball and track and field, and serves as a tutor and a mentor.
Joel was asked to reflect on how his education at TD has influenced his teaching philosophy and style. It was at TD that his love of language was born and that he began to understand and express his own worldview through poetry and stories; out of that learning and love, he worked to “live consciously” and to make discerning choices regarding his lifestyle. As a student he appreciated the opportunities and space that TD provided for the testing, discussing, and ultimately the flourishing of his beliefs about God and God’s creation. This now informs his own teaching methodology: he believes that “at the heart of a student’s growth is the necessity not only to interact with their teacher, but also to hear from other students their struggles, questions, and perspectives on faith.”
Joel Sjaarda is part of the TDCH Class of 2006. Sean Van Eerden is a teacher at TDChristian.
Story #44: Eric Knibbe (story by Joni Knibbe)
Quartermastering Your Future
On May 24, 2014, I was given a tour of Treefrog Inc. in Newmarket by Eric Knibbe, a 2002 TD graduate and, as you may have guessed, my son.
His business card lists Eric’s position in the company as “Quartermaster”. He does “everything required for everyone else in the company to get work done”, such as workstation and server maintenance, troubleshooting, and software upgrades. He’s also a programmer and tester for Lasso, a web application language and server platform.
While telling me about his days at TD, Eric pointed out that the group work and presentations frequently assigned in class were an accurate reflection of the need to collaborate with both clients and colleagues in the business world; an essential component of this is being able to write and speak clearly, professionally, and correctly in order to communicate effectively.
During his time at TD he found friends who remain so to this day. He also appreciated that there was room and encouragement for students like him to pursue their interests in areas outside the classroom, such as computers, networking, and working with the light and sound systems.
His advice for high school students today? “You are responsible for your own education, so take the time now to explore what you’re good at and what you like to do.”
Eric Knibbe is part of the TDCH Class of 2002. Proud mom Joni Knibbe is an educational assistant at TDChristian.
Story #43: Phil terHaar (story by William Groot)
Taking a Defensive Position
Phil terHaar (‘95) is currently a Senior Research Technologist at Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC), an agency of the Department of National Defence (DND), in Downsview. He really enjoys his work, especially the opportunity to work on projects that impact the Canadian military.
After leaving TDChristian Phil attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, where he began studies in English. He enjoyed writing, because he was good at it; however, he learned soon enough that he did not enjoy all the reading. Not wanting to start over, Phil switched to Psychology, spending his final year as a visiting student at McGill University in Montreal and earning a degree. Then in 1999, realizing that a Psychology degree did not make him very marketable, Phil took a nine-month course in software, database, and web development from the Information Technology Institute. He had always had a penchant for math and science, but didn’t take courses in those areas in high school because he wanted to get higher grades—a choice he questions from time to time.
After working for two years as a “minion” in a private company, Phil learned of an opportunity at the DND through a long-time school friend. He applied, and in 2004 began his time at the Downsview lab. Since then, with support from his workplace, Phil has earned a master’s degree in Cognitive Science from the University of Guelph.
At heart and by nature, Phil is a collaborator and a problem-solver. He shared a cool solution, using SMART Boards and Grade 10 Math, to correctly identify the distance by which soldiers missed the mark in shooting drills. In addition, he has worked extensively on an anthropometric study (the use of the measurements and proportions of the human body) enabling the military to know what size of people will fit into places such as cockpits and tanks.
Phil’s advice to students is to remember that “education is currency”, that learning reports aren’t always good predictors of future success, and that coding and computer programming are good skills to learn and develop for work in a variety of fields. Phil is married to Annemieke Smele (TDChristian ‘95) and they have two children, Matthew (5) and Marielle (3).
Phil terHaar is part of the TDCH Class of 1995. William Groot is the principal at TDChristian.
Story #42: Andrew Jon Tenyenhuis (story by June Tenyenhuis)
Towards a Better Toronto
The assignment of meeting with an alumnus or alumna of TD gave me the opportunity to be with our oldest son, Andrew Jon Tenyenhuis. He agreed without hesitation to let me show up at his work place to spend reflective time with him. Andrew is a project manager at Waterfront Toronto, the corporation responsible for masterplanning and constructing Toronto’s Lake Ontario frontage (visioning the values of Jane Jacobs, urban thinker and philosopher). He works with a friendly group of innovative thinkers to develop urban neighbourhoods that focus on the aesthetics of social, environmental, and economic health of Toronto.
After Andrew graduated from TDChristian in 1995, he went on to earn a degree from Calvin College in Michigan and then attended the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto to dabble in philosophy. However, he changed academic direction to study the earthy philosophy and aesthetics of Landscape Design at the University of Toronto, where he obtained a master’s degree. Andrew lives in Toronto with his wife Melanie and is the dad of the lovely Allie.
With enthusiasm, energy, and passion, Andrew led me on foot through the Lakeshore developments. We went from Bay Street to the Don Valley, and it was as if I was on one of the tours he directs through those lovely spaces. As we walked, he reflected on his education at TD and how it affects his job situation today. Andrew appreciates that he learned to think critically, to have confidence to think counter to the mainstream, and to see himself as having power to make changes. Staff members who encouraged him at that time were Richard VanderKloet, Al Groen, Phil Vriend, Fran Joosse, and Alice VanderKooy, and he remembers them all fondly.
Andrew advises students not to rush into a vocation, but to take the time to get to know themselves first. He suggests taking stock of high school experiences so that they will contribute to meaningful choices and decisions. I agree with his advice.
Andrew Tenyenhuis is part of the TDCH Class of 1995. Proud mom June teaches art at TDChristian.
Story #41: Garret Dekleer (story by Jerry Klompmaker)
Garret studied at TD from 1990 through 1994. While there he learned a lot about life and people; he became well versed in informal psychology and sociology. He wasn’t focused on academics, but went to class looking to have fun and engage people. Garret was always networking: we met during a Grade 9 English class. He has always loved to meet people and interact with individuals, and reminds me of a youthful (and more handsome) Al Waxman from The King of Kensington.
Garret struggled to find relevance in what he was studying in high school; he didn’t see how sitting in class and learning mattered to his life. Ironically, he studied—and was coached with flash cards—for his bartender’s licence in Resource class in his senior year. He passed with flying colours. When he was engaged and made aware of its relevance, Garret found learning was second nature.
Now Garret loves to learn; he is a voracious reader and interested in almost everything. He wishes he had been more that way during high school, and laments that he didn’t see all the value of learning when he was at TD. Perhaps he now seeks knowledge because of his life experiences, of which TD played a big part.
Since high school, Garret has taken advantage of every learning opportunity. He has started and run a number of his own successful small businesses. He has mastered Spanish and taught English to university students in Mexico. He wishes he had been ready to learn more when in high school: French and Geography would have helped with learning Spanish and living in Mexico years later.
According to Garret, students in high school should take advantage of the knowledge and opportunities presented to them. They aren’t the only experiences a student will have, but they are valuable and advantageous. It is important to find the value in what you are doing while you are engaged in it. This will further engage you in your task or calling, enabling you in turn to deepen your wisdom and engage your world.
Garret DeKleer is part of the TDCH Class of 1994. Jerry Klompmaker is a teacher at TDChristian.
Story #40: Berny and Irene Menken (story by Cathy Vanderheide)
All in the Family
Berny and Irene graduated from TDCH in 1977 and married in 1979. They are blessed with four sons (Kyle, Dale, Cody, and Chad), three grandchildren (Kendra, Jacob, and Makayla), and three foster daughters (Raechelle, Dominique, and Shaylynne). All four sons also attended TDCH and have wonderful memories and friends from that time. And here’s a heads-up: in as little as seven or eight years there could be more Menkens attending TD!
Since 1986 the Menkens have lived in Georgetown, where they currently own and operate Diamond Tree Care, Inc. with some of their sons.
Over the years they have connected with many other TD people in various places who were or are students, teachers, parents, or supporters. What do they have to say about the school? “TDCH was, is, and will continue to be a blessing to so many people in so many ways. We give thanks to God for TDCH and praise him for abundant blessings there. It is definitely worth our continued support.”
Berny and Irene Menken are both part of the TDCH Class of 1977. Cathy Vanderheide is a teacher at TDChristian.
Story #39: Richard Vanderkloet (story by Joel Westerhof)
A Flourishing Fixture
For 39 of his 60 years Richard Vanderkloet has been a fixture at TDChristian, first as a student who graduated in ‘71 and later as a teacher and parent. When in high school, “I would never have predicted being a teacher,” Richard says. This is not to say he didn’t leave this place without learning important lessons; Richard claims that one of the greatest things he accomplished while here was “learning typing”, and he found his English courses “stimulating, interesting, and mind-enlarging,” particularly when uncovering how all writings arise out of a worldview.
After majoring in Philosophy and History at Trinity College in Chicago, Richard left the grim, frigid grasp of America and returned to the cold but welcoming embrace of his home and native land to pursue an MA in History at the University of Toronto. Realizing he didn’t want to be a professor, he set his sights instead on teaching high school, and became certified to teach shop as well. He then returned to TD, this time as a staff member, where he has been for the last 35 years.
What he says he “most treasures” about this place is that it has allowed him to “flourish” by providing significant opportunities, not only to pursue his passions for history, canoeing, and woodworking, but also to grow as a person. Meeting “people as people, students as students, and parents as parents” has been an important part of this growth.
Richard cautions current students not to attach too much importance to grades, since they don’t always reflect interest or knowledge—well said by a man who loves history but only earned a grade of 65% in that class in high school. To everyone, Richard offers this advice: “If something interests you, pursue it to the max.”
Richard Vanderkloet is part of the TDCH Class of 1971. Joel Westerhof is a teacher at TDChristian.
Story #38: Len Prins
Small Ponds and Trusting God
In the fall of 1984 I travelled to Sherbrooke, Quebec. A nice lady from the development office took me to Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, on the back roads through the changing colours. Tuition was cheaper than Ontario and they offered me a generous entrance scholarship. The next day I met the majority of the professors who would teach me should I attend. So I did. The first lesson: small ponds are often better than big ones.
Many of my fellow students had taken prep courses in the Quebec CEGEP. Organic chemistry is one example. After the initial shock I resolved to do two things. I would not fail due to lack of trying, and I would trust God. Part of trusting God was going to church on Sunday and taking Sundays off from school. I went to every organic chemistry tutorial offered. They were taught by the same professor who gave the course. On Sunday, I happened to sit in the university chapel in the same pew as the University Principal. Although I didn’t know it at the time, these two men were on the committee that gave me two awards at the end of first year. The awards were for, “Best all around first year student”, and an upgrade of my scholarship to full tuition and room and board. The second lesson: trust God and to not give up. In my third year I was accepted to University of Toronto Medical School.
In the first few weeks at U of T I noticed a young lady sitting in front of me in the lecture hall. A few days later I met her at Medical Christian Fellowship. Four years later she became my wife. I see the hand of God in this. Few decisions are more important than marrying the right person. It’s more important than getting a good job, and deserving of at least as much effort.
After completing residency, we located in Ridgetown, Ontario and set up a joint family practice together. We live in Chatham to allow our children easier access to the Christian School. Just this year my son started engineering at McMaster University after being well prepared for that at Chatham Christian School. Christian education is more than worth the investment.
Len Prins, TDCH Class of 1984
Story #37: Sean Cate
Rapid Rise for Cate
The following August 2013 story on alumnus Sean Cate has been reprinted with permission from the (Georgetown) Independent & Free Press. The author of the story is Eamonn Maher.
A competitive high jumper for just the past six months, local resident Sean Cate is now regarded as one of the top prospects on the Canadian track & field scene following a rather dramatic entrance at an indoor meet in February. The 19-year-old former basketball star has literally improved by leaps and bounds in a sport he rediscovered after leaving quite an impression on the coaching staff of the Speed River Track & Field Club in Guelph.
Frustrated by where his promising hoops career had taken him after a year at a North Carolina high school called Christian Faith Center Academy, the 6-foot-5 small forward enrolled in the University of Guelph’s political science program last fall and was an athlete “drifting around without a sport” until his father made a suggestion. “You’re a good jumper and you did some high-jumping before. Why don’t you try track,” said dad Adam, a native Iranian who played on a basketball scholarship at the University of South Alabama. “You might as well give it a shot.” Born and raised in Georgetown, Sean’s mother Meg described him as an energetic toddler whose athletic exuberance sometimes overpowered his co-ordination, leading to many bruises and stitches, but happily, no serious injuries. “I was always jumping around as a kid. Those Jolly Jumpers that you put in a doorway? I lived on that,” he laughed. “You could say that I was born to jump, and track seems to personify everything I enjoy doing. I just never associated it with something I’d do long term. I was good at it in Grades 7 and 8, got away from it and now I’ve found it again. It’s a different environment than basketball for sure.”
Cate walked into the fieldhouse at Guelph Jan. 31 and asked a couple of the Speed River coaches if they would work with him. A personal best of 5.5 metres in the long jump was decent, but nowhere close to the 7.5m mark that some of the club members were registering. Cate’s 1.80m in the high jump, however, piqued their interest. With just a few practices to begin building his technical form, he successfully leaped 1.85m at his first indoor meet in Windsor. Then a week later, at the ironically named Last Chance Meet in Guelph, where athletes have a final opportunity to qualify for provincial and national championships, Cate caused a stir by clearing 2.06m to win the competition against some experienced university competitors, putting him into the top 10 in the country. “To make 2.06 in basketball shoes was amazing and I’m glad I got it on my iPad. He turned everyone’s heads at the university because of the limited amount of technical background he had,” said his coach at Speed River, Garth Peet. “We call him Hops. He has that natural gift of spring in his steps and if you watch him, he actually walks on his toes. Sean’s a huge talent and definitely a name to look out for with the potential to be one of the best in the country. Being a crossover from basketball, you can see that he approaches the high jump similar to how he’d dunk the ball. High jump is like anything else, but there’s a large technical process behind it and Sean is picking it up really well in practice. He could clear 2.15 tomorrow.”
Since the revelation at the Last Chance meet, Cate hasn’t been able to match that height in competition, although he’s still listed as the number one-ranked jumper among 19-year-olds in Canada. He placed eighth at the senior nationals in Moncton in June, which was won by 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Derek Drouin, and just missed earning a berth at the Canada Games in Quebec, placing second at the qualifier in Windsor. Cate was deemed ineligible to earn international points for the University of Guelph’s varsity team this past year, although he did train with the group, but will be able to compete for the Gryphons as a sophomore. In his last big meet of the summer, Cate finished in a tie for fifth at the Canadian Junior Track & Field Championships in St. Therese, Que. last month. Having improved his personal best by .26 of a metre in less than half a year, he needs to reach 2.06m at a meet before the end of the summer to qualify for Quest for Gold funding from Athletics Canada, but has set his goals much higher. “The cutoff for the Olympic standard is 2.25 to 2.30 and I expect to be jumping 2.20 to 2.25 by the end of this year,” said the confident Cate, who graduated from Toronto District Christian High School in Woodbridge last year.
“Timing is everything and from what I’ve learned so far, being consistent is the key. Two Canadians jump more than 2.30 and they’re at least 22 years old. For 2016 in Rio, I’ll be about Derek (Drouin)’s age when he was in London last year. The Olympic cycle looks good for me and I should be approaching my peak for sure.” Cate is enrolled at Guelph for the coming year, but there has been some interest from NCAA schools in the U.S. about possible scholarship offers for 2014-15. The family’s garage has been transformed into a gym and although the closest high-jumping facility is at Speed River, Peet says Cate never misses a practice and usually shows up well before his teammates. “We’ve already had some schools from the U.S. call and say, ‘Hey, we’ve seen you jump. We’re willing to work with you, but one more year at Guelph will help you develop and refine the talent you have with a well-respected program that’s won (CIS) nationals three of the last five years. I have no doubt that’ll help me improve,” Cate added.
Sean Cate is part of the TDCH Class of 2012
Story #36: Evan Versteeg
TD from the Perspective of a Current Student
I knew TDCH long before I ever started going to school in it. As part of our cadet program for my church, we would have an annual gym night at TD, as well as play tag in the dark halls, trying our hardest to scare each other. I never would have thought that I would be going here and be where I am now.
When I was in Grade Eight my parents asked me if I would like to go to TDCH for Grade Nine. This may seem insignificant to most people, but coming from a homeschool background, it was a big deal; I was pretty excited. My first involvement in TD as a student was at a TD sports camp the summer before Grade Nine. There I met many interesting kids, and it became clear to me how “sheltered” I was when I couldn’t understand many of the references they made about famous people. After sports camp I had a general idea of social dynamics and was ready for whatever high school could throw at me. Before long I had made friends and soared through Grade Nine with flying colours and received my first honour certificate.
Grade Ten was arguably the best year of my life. I made good friends and had many experiences that I will never forget. It’s the year where I discovered my love for science and the environment through the Environmental Block program, and the year I got accepted into the life changing International Block program.
As part of that program, in Grade Eleven I travelled to the Dominican Republic with teacher Ms. Rachael Weening, six chaperones, and twenty fellow students on a two-month service and learning trip. Because of that trip my life changed dramatically and I have had doors opened to new opportunities. If there is one thing I will remember out of my years at TD, it will be that trip, and the people I met.
Looking back, it feels much longer than three years, and I don’t think I could have asked for better years or a better school. I have just finished Grade Eleven, and am in the middle of applying for a teacher’s assistant position In E-Block, the course I took last year, and am looking into the area of Animal Biology as a career.
TD is an amazing school with amazing opportunities and I am very fortunate to have parents who are able to fund me through all my years. I am looking forward to everything Grade Twelve has to offer.
Evan Versteeg, TDCH Class of 2014
Story #35: Marina Laswick
Prepared & At Peace in a Dangerous World
High school was not the easiest four years of my life. By Grade 10 I was already itching to graduate and move on to the “real world”. Being a creative person, art and fashion came easy to me. In my final year at TDCH I was encouraged, as all seniors are, to apply for post-secondary education. Not having any concrete idea of what I wanted to study, I applied for Fashion at Humber College because of my creative interest.
At the end of my senior year of high school, a cousin who was enrolled in the same program at Humber College asked me if I would model for some of the students in the program for their final project. Through this I was recognized by a photographer in the industry and was given an interesting experience in trying out for a model search, which got me signed with an established modelling agency in downtown Toronto. As a model I have experienced many opportunities: I’ve been on numerous television segments, have travelled internationally, acted in commercials, and modelled for large brand-name companies.
I knew, going into the fashion world, that it was going to challenge me in many ways I had never experienced before. The fashion industry can be dangerous for those who don’t have a good head on their shoulders. Many girls, both young and old, fall into the destructive lifestyles they encounter in the world of modelling. Drug and alcohol abuse, anorexia, and bulimia are only some of the dangers that are easy to fall into when working in the fashion scene.
The world puts so much emphasis on beauty and encourages us to strive for physical “perfection”. From tabloid magazines to Victoria’s Secret billboards, no matter where you travel, we are confronted with what society says is true beauty. According to a recent study broadcast on reporter Anderson Cooper’s talk show, Anderson Live, only about 4% of women believe that they are beautiful. The media has a huge impact on females, especially young women who are trying to identify who they are and who they want to become.
The world can be a scary place, but thanks to a great upbringing from my family, friends, Christian community, and Christian schools (one of them being TDCH), I know that I am not alone in the trials I face as a young woman working in a competitive and superficial market. I know that without God’s love and protection over me, I would not be where I am today.
Marina Laswick, TDCH Class of 2009
Story #34: Harro Van Brummelen
Overhead Projectors Gone, Teens Still Educated for Service
I regret very much that I was unable to attend the 50th Anniversary celebrations! I am, with all of you, deeply grateful to God for TDCH’s influence on the lives of several generations of students.
I have very fond memories of my four years at TDCH. Together with our first Grade 12 class I moved into the brand-new building in 1965. And my Grade 10 homeroom classes always had exceptional students—considerate, fun-loving, AND diligent! Not that all of you loved Math as much as I did, but you’ve been generous in telling me afterwards that you enjoyed my classes nonetheless.
Not that all of you were angels, either. I remember when some of you set off “stink bombs” in several classes, and then also in mine. I didn’t say anything; I just closed the windows, left the room, and had a coffee in the staff room. About 15 minutes later a subdued and contrite delegation came to tell me that it would never happen again, asked my forgiveness, and begged me to return to class. Another lesson learned: you, about how to resolve an awkward situation with grace; me, how to get basically good students to take responsibility for their actions; and together, how to use glitches to build community.
Much has happened since that time. I was the first teacher at TDCH to introduce an overhead projector—something that was just a fad, one board member claimed, and would soon disappear. Disappear it did, but not until it was replaced by the technology that today’s students at TDCH use so effectively and creatively. I visited the school about two years ago, and I’m thrilled about the way it has developed. Its problem-based learning, its learning strategies, its unique curriculum, its use of resources: all of these are second to none in Canada! And all contribute to preparing the next generation to use its gifts in service to the Lord.
May our Lord of Life continue to bless TDCH richly in the years to come.
Harro Van Brummelen, TDCH Math teacher, 1965-1969
Story #33: Don James
Teacher Fondly Remembers Colleagues, Parents, & Students
Not everything was wonderful at TD. We were understaffed and short of space; my first year we had to “borrow” two classrooms from a local church. We waited years for a single photocopier, and made do with a wonderful part-time secretary named Joanne Hartholt, who, I think, worked pro bono or for gas money. And once I ransacked our munificent supply closet, making off with a dysfunctional table microphone and a movie screen case without a screen; both fit perfectly my classroom décor inspired by Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.
Also, I had to pass a double probation: as a teacher new to the school, and as a Yankee with no Dutch nor Christian Reformed heritage (though I was at least a Calvinist co-conspirator, having been raised Presbyterian).
But I tell you wholeheartedly: I deeply treasure my days at TDCH.
My colleagues helped me in two distinct ways: some through kind, enthusiastic support and shared educational values, and others through resistance to my eccentric style and unconventional methods. “Iron sharpeneth iron: so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 KJV)
The parents I met at TDCH were fervently devoted to the spiritual growth and academic success of their children. After leaving Toronto I worked with many kids whose parents couldn’t care less about their success in school. The only reading material in some homes was the back of a cereal box, and the parents’ passions were alcohol, drugs, and other venalities, not their kids’ welfare. Thank God, TD parents were different: they based their love and parenting on a biblical anthropological model, and I saw the fruit of this in their children’s work and social ethics. Their children may not have endorsed all their parenting decisions, but they knew there was more to life than net worth and the square footage of a house. And how I loved parent interviews! In concise, productive conversations we compared perceptions, and I learned to understand, appreciate, and guide my students better. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a beaming dad who said, “You captured her imagination.” My hearty thanks to the kind and supportive parents who blessed me in so many ways.
As for students! I still have a complete set of grade books and yearbooks, and reviewing them brought a high tide of warm memories. I could pull up a mental image of almost every student on my class lists, and when I later leafed through the hundreds of hopeful, hilarious, respectful, and wholesome faces in the yearbooks, fond memories were as plentiful as butterflies in a son-kissed meadow.
Yes, sometimes you were annoying, but you were merely answering the teenage imperative. (Some of you may remember me suddenly turning to the blackboard, bellowing at the top of my lungs, and then returning to the lesson. That was just my acknowledgement that you were bubbling over with scattered energy, and my often vain attempt to refocus you.) I never expected you to get as excited about King Lear or The Great Gatsby as I was. But I strove to work as hard as the most diligent students, rereading all the books each year in hopes of finding something new to share. You were patient with my classroom eccentricities (which one of my Toronto pals called “a combination of education and vaudeville”) and inspired me with your energy, creativity, and wondrous appreciation of special moments. Many of you shared uplifting stories about your own steps and missteps along our Christian pilgrimage. I delighted in you as individual acts of creation, and sought to encourage, challenge, or get out of the way so you could develop your God-given gifts. Along the way I fervently hoped I was helping you learn, think, strive, enjoy, and laugh.
I recall the enormous blessings you all gave me so freely then, and which no bumps along life’s highway have dislodged from my heart. And I hope that I was a blessing to you, too.
Don James, TDCH English teacher, 1972-1978
Story #32: Brooke Moore
What I Learned in International Block
Even before coming to TD I was interested in International Block; I thought it would be an amazing and rare opportunity. I had also wanted to go on a missions trip, but so far none had worked out. I finally had my chance, so I jumped at the opportunity!
I really wanted to find out where I stand and where God is in my life. I learned so much on this trip about poverty, hardship, pain, fairness, and difference, and while I still don’t have answers, I have faith that God does have a plan even though it’s often hard to see. I also wanted to break out of my shell and become less introverted. At the beginning I stuck close to my friends, but over time, working in small groups with new people helped me connect. I came to love and trust this group of people as we grew together. Opening up to others is something I would never have done before, but now it comes naturally.
Seeing images of poverty on a screen in the comfort of home was altogether different from being surrounded by poverty. I saw children everywhere, with no rules or protection, alone and uncared for. I learned how blessed I am, and how silly it is to complain about little things when some people don’t know if they’ll have another meal. I recommend such a trip for every young person: from helping build houses to loving children, to seeing and touching pain and poverty, your eyes and heart are opened. You get real, and you grow more selfless. You do a lot of thinking and reflecting, learn to accept unanswered questions, and see God in new ways.
One of my favourite moments was the first night in Sabana. It was rainy, and we were just getting settled. We heard there’d be an optional church service at 7:00 if anyone was interested. At first I talked myself out of it, feeling “too tired,” but in the end I did go with a few others. It was a tiny church with not many people, but they were worshipping God and praying out loud. They asked us to sing, and as we sang for them a cappella I experienced the most powerful moment of the entire trip: my whole body felt God’s presence, God holding me, and I was covered in goose bumps.
I loved taking part at Compassion International with the children there; my relationship with them, especially Daniella, Lorena, and Lorenie, deepened every time I went. I loved to see them so excited and to make them smile. On Saturdays I spent time with a young mother named Mariana in the community of Cercadillo. She is 19 and cares for four children: two are her own—she had the first at age 15—and two have the same father but other mothers who have deserted them. She has a three-room home made of wood, with no plumbing, and makes bags, bracelets, and other crafts to generate a small income. Mariana is my hero for still having a smile on her face and sticking around when many others in her life haven’t.
God calls us to go out into the world and love and care for hurting people, not hide behind our picture-perfect lives. As broken and troubled as these people are, so are we; it’s just not as obvious. When Jesus lived on earth, he didn’t hang out with the rich and “perfect” people, but with the rough, broken, and lost ones. As he has loved us, so we are called to love.
Brooke Moore, TDCH Class of 2014
Story #31: William Groot
Willing to Follow
The first time I remember being at TDCH was in 1973 when I helped my friend, Martin Gazendam, take dents out of used lockers received by the school. Under the direction of Mr. Post, we spent a good time hammering and then moving the lockers.
A year later, I entered Grade 9. The south end of the school (with a new Art room, bathrooms, and Commons room downstairs, as well as two new classrooms, a new staff room, and new library upstairs) was being completed while we attempted to learn. As part of the 70s boom at TDCH, our class consisted of over 100 students. Over the next four years I enjoyed many classes and extra-curricular activities, including sports, drama, various clubs, and students’ council. I also met my wife, Lorraine VanderSchaaf, at TDCH, though it took over three years for me to work up the courage to ask her out on a date. Our first one was December 20, 1977, at the school’s Christmas Banquet. In short, the Lord used TDCH to shape my life.
As a result of my experience as a student, and with the encouragement of my parents, I decided to try my hand at teaching; it was my second choice after sports journalism, but it seemed an acceptable direction. So after Grade 13 at Thistletown Collegiate Institute (TDCH only went up to Grade 12 at the time), I attended the University of Waterloo in their Honours Mathematics Teaching Option. In 1982, at an alumni basketball game against the TDCH team, Mr. Bill Barneveld, the principal and referee, asked me to apply to TDCH. That September I started my career at TDCH teaching Math and Computer Science.
Over the past 31 years, I have grown immeasurably as a Christian educator, coach, and person. The TD community has been a blessing to me and my family (all six of us are TD graduates). I immensely enjoy interacting with, challenging, and inspiring teenagers on their learning journeys, and have been incredibly enriched by their presence in my life.
I’ve also been privileged to serve with many great teachers and two stellar visionary principals, Bill Barneveld and Ren Siebenga; together we have sought to educate teens for service in the light of God’s Word. That phrase, adopted in the mid-1990s, is a great reminder to us of our collective responsibility to the children who attend TDChristian. In my new role as principal, I hope to encourage all of us to continue carrying out that vision. God has promised to lead; we must be willing to follow.
William Groot, TDCH Class of 1978
Story #30: Jodi Dengerink
TD Grad Unexpectedly Finds the Work She Loves
I was never really sure what I wanted to do for a living; I loved all the subjects at TDCH, but none of them stuck out as my “best” subject. I was a little confused at the end of Grade 12, but went to university hoping to be exposed to new possibilities that would help me choose a career. I attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a BA in Psychology. I enjoyed the subject, but knew I didn’t want to be a psychologist or psychiatrist; I just thought that having a degree would help me out in the job world.
The summer after I graduated, I had my “aha” moment: I met someone who worked for a department store and was paid to decide which items to sell in their stores. From that moment I had a plan. I signed up for retail buying classes at George Brown College and got some experience in retail. After a lot of hard work, I landed a job at Hudson’s Bay Company as an Assistant Furniture Buyer.
A year and a half after starting there, I decided to move to Chicago where my long-term boyfriend was living. This was the height of the recession, and I was taking a big risk by leaving a secure job. But after only a month of looking for work in Chicago, I was hired by a start-up business that needed an Office Administrator; it was a custom men’s suit company, and apart from the owner I was the only employee. I have now worked there for four years and love going to work each day. I currently run the business, overseeing eight employees, but I also get to use a variety of other skills such as buying, marketing, and sales. I have learned a great deal about small business and about working hard to achieve what you want.
I am now engaged to the man I followed to Chicago, and we are looking forward to our destination wedding in January. You never know where life will take you, but if you work hard and love what you do, your career will be rewarding.
Jodi Dengerink, TDCH Class of 2002
Story #29: Margriet (Booy) Aasman
Flourishing & Happy in the Yukon
I couldn’t wait to leave high school and begin the adventure of my life. After five more years of study—one at Humber College, two at Dordt, and two at Calvin—I had secured a BA in German and Art. The summer before finishing, I read an article in The Globe and Mailabout the Yukon, Canada’s last frontier, and decided that’s where I was going. Then in my senior year I met Al, who shared the same dream, and we thought, Why not go together? A week after getting married, we packed everything we owned in a three-quarter-ton pickup and ventured across Canada and up the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse.
Three children came along early in our marriage, keeping us fixed in one place more firmly than planned. We worked very hard at various jobs, building several homes in the meantime to get ahead. We started two companies: one building R2000 homes, and one doing graphic design. Our first computer system in 1989 cost us $12,000! We got so busy that we had to shut down one of our companies. Today we have a Brand Communications agency in a downtown office, with a dozen people working for us. I love the freedom of working for myself and being able to choose the work I do. Our eldest son, daughter-in-law (on maternity leave), and son-in-law work for us, and are slowly assuming ownership and management of the business.
The north has been home for 35 years. I love its pristine beauty, the clean air, the wilderness at our doorstep. All three of our children travelled, studied outside the Yukon, and eventually found their way back here; they all brought spouses and have children. How blessed is that?
Our second son, Nathan, after travelling to New Zealand and then Europe, decided to go to King’s University. In his last year, he came home at Christmas announcing that he had found a lovely girl named Sarah Atsma. As this relationship began to grow, we realized Sarah was the daughter of my TDCH classmate, Judy Vandermeulen, now Atsma. It has been wonderful to get to know Judy again in a new and better way, and to share three beautiful granddaughters.
Reflecting on my time at TDCH, I must admit they were not my favourite years. Coming from a stint in another country, I had to make some very fast adjustments to fit in. I am thankful for Mr. and Mrs. Brelsford, both excellent teachers, who set me on an academic track and challenged my thinking. I also appreciate Mr. Suk, who encouraged me and made me feel worthwhile. It was because of him that I went to Dordt.
I admire my kids and adore my six grandkids. I love kayaking in the summer on our pristine, glacier-fed lakes. I love knitting while Al ties flies on long cold winter nights, a fire burning in our cookstove. I love lattés, collecting art, sketching, reading good books, listening to all kinds of music—and I don’t even mind getting older. I wish they would teach you in high school that happiness comes in the pleasure of small things, doing work you are passionate about, living life with someone who is your best friend, and being there for those you love.
Or maybe it’s best that life itself teaches you those things.
Margriet (Booy) Aasman, TDCH Class of 1973
Story #28: Gwen (Venema) Veenstra
TD: One of the Best Gifts
I was the fourth child in the Venema family to attend TDCH back in the 70s. In those days homerooms were divided by grades, with no mixing of “minor niners” and “mighty twelvers”. The building has changed over the years: as far as I know, the office has moved at least three times, and there have been several additions. When I was in Grade 9 there was no commons room, and when they finally built one it was at the opposite end of the school to where it is now. The curriculum was different, too: we took Typing, and learned how to sew in Family Studies class. For gym, we girls wore the ugliest green jumpsuits (about which I still have nightmares!). My fondest memories of TD have to do with being in the school plays: each year we would spend countless hours at practices, working hard, but having so much fun.
After graduating from TDCH I attended York University and earned my teaching degree. I began working for the Peel Board of Education in 1980, specializing in Special Education, and God continually opened doors for me at a time when placements and jobs were not easy to get. In 1986 I married my husband Henry (best known for his role in coordinating the TD Rummage Sale for the last number of years); when our children were little I moved from full-time to supply teaching, returning to a permanent contract position at the Peel Board when our youngest began kindergarten. And that brings us to the present day.
Education at a Christian High School was one of the best gifts my parents could ever have given me. Sacrifices had to be made, but it was worth it. Now as the last of our four children graduates from TD, we look back and count it a real blessing to have been able to send all of them to this school as well. We are thankful for the Christ-centred education, the caring Christian teachers, and the true friendships that have surrounded our children for their high school years.
Gwen (Venema) Veenstra, TDCH Class of 1976
Story #27: Patty (Masengi) Schuurman
“The End of All Our Exploring Will Be to Arrive Where We Started…”
Life continues to be one amazing trip! I was bitten by the travel bug at an early age, when I had the privilege of voyaging around the globe because of my parents’ interest and profession as travel agents. Did my adventures take me trekking across the African safari or meandering through cobblestone streets of European cities? Close. In terms of vocation, I became an educator in the Christian school system.
Over the past 24 years, the map of my life has included stops at academic institutions such as Redeemer College, the Sorbonne in Paris, Calvin College, and (for my M.Ed.) Brock University. Paperwork and credentials in hand, I went in search of employment, and found successive destinations at Community Christian School in Metcalfe, Redeemer Christian High School in Ottawa, John Knox Christian School in Oakville, and King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville. I had the privilege of returning to JKCS as a vice principal, pursuing an interest in administration for the first time. I married a wonderful and patient high school friend named Tim Schuurman; we have one amazing child, Jacob. As a family we have been members of loving church communities in Ottawa and currently in Oakville, striking new friendships, renewing old ones, and appreciating family and neighbours whether next door or across the ocean.
While I have not yet ventured into every corner of the globe, I will say that teaching, so far, is the trip of a lifetime. When you consider what the contours of life are really like, contemplate which direction is best, and read the road signs to see what is up ahead, teaching students is a rich and rewarding experience. Teaching provides the opportunity to walk alongside young people—on scenic pathways or rocky trails—and discover God’s goodness and creation as if touring the world together.
My years at TDCH were a time of building excellent memories with friends, classmates, and teachers. Upon reflection, it was the invaluable sense of community and the messages of affirmation that counted as foundational experiences for the journey that followed high school. These experiences call me back to a stage of life that was inquisitive, creative, and energetic—a stage that I look forward to revisiting at TDCH, this time as an eager staff member ready for the next adventure!
Patty (Masengi) Schuurman, TDCH Class of 1989
Story #26: Henry Feenstra
Memories from “Timothy” on Elmhurst
First, congratulations to TDCH on its 50th Anniversary! It was a very pleasant surprise to receive a phone call from Joni Knibbe about the celebration to be held June 1.
I had just been accepted into graduate school at the University of Western Ontario when I received a visit from three Toronto-area gentlemen: Rev. Henry De Bolster, Rev. Henry Venema, and Fred Reinders. They were very persuasive and convinced me to postpone my graduate studies and come to Toronto to begin teaching the brand-new Grade 9 class at Timothy Christian School in Rexdale. At the same time, they convinced Audrey Pegels (Hiemstra) to join the staff as well.
The year was very busy and exciting. Along with the academic work, many memorable events stand out in my mind: building the skating rink in the front yard, the gymnastics classes in the gym, the Science Fair, the trip to Springdale to raise money by working in the carrot fields, and a most enjoyable weekend spent with Grade 8 and 9 students at a lot on Stony Lake near Peterborough.
The next year I was again accepted into graduate school, and with the very able assistance of my wife Jane, I graduated with my PhD in Psychology. Shortly afterwards I became registered as a Psychologist in the Province of Ontario. I worked briefly for the London Board of Education, then received an invitation to teach for two years at the graduate school of the National Teacher Training Institute in Manila, The Philippines. After two years there, I accepted a position as the first School Psychologist for the Grey County Board of Education, where I worked for 25 years until retirement.
I continue to be active in the field of education through my current private practice, and have been actively involved with Redeemer University College. We live on a farm near Chatsworth, where we participate in the church and local community.
The faith, vision, and commitment of the early TDCH supporters was very evident. Their efforts have been richly blessed, as you now have a full-fledged, beautifully equipped, well-staffed, and vibrant high school where children are taught in a Christ-centred environment.
We look forward to meeting many of you on June 1.
Henry Feenstra, Pioneer TD teacher
Story #25: Henriette (Groot) Grootenboer
TDCH 20 years ago
I graduated from TDCH in 1993. Back then I would pick out my outfit the night before, try it on, try something else on, decide none of it was any good, and go and borrow something from my sister’s closet. Now I wake up and throw on jeans and a sweatshirt while holding a baby, counselling my nine-year-old what to wear to school, and playing “David Gets Goliath” with my four-year-old. (David always wins. I’m never David.)
My years at TD seem to be a long time ago, but looking back I can see that they helped shape the way I think and act. Throughout my time at TD, I benefited from the Christian perspectives of the teachers, the closeness of Christian friends, and the challenge to do my best. I believe that, at such a formative time in life, education from a Christian perspective is invaluable. In addition to helping me learn to see the world in the light of Christ, the teachers at TD also taught me to work methodically and thoroughly, which was a great help to me in university.
I now work as a physiotherapist at St. John’s Rehab Hospital in Toronto. I see mainly neurological and oncology patients in the rehab stage. Seeing people from a wide variety of backgrounds and support systems reinforces for me how much God has blessed me. I love being married to my husband Jeremy Grootenboer, sexiest man alive, and I love my three kids: Meagan, Ethan, and Joshua. I delight in the fun things they say and do, and I hope that one day they will be able to attend TDCH.
I believe that TD is an excellent high school, and I am forever grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made so that I could have a Christian education.
Henriette (Groot) Grootenboer, TDCH Class of 1993
Story #24: Alice (Neutel) Proper
A Unique Education at TDCH
I attended Grade 10 the first year it was held in the Christian Reformed Church on Albion Road. What a trip it was to get there from Georgetown, through Glen Williams and Acton and down the 401 to Weston! For two years the church basement was our classroom, the parking lot and the path along the Humber River were our gym, and our teachers were bus drivers. God blessed those faithful, humble beginnings. I remember the days when we lustily sang the “Trowel Action Song” (to the tune of “Calvinists are We”) and saw the walls of the school go up.
Our motto, “We see all of life in the light of Christ”, challenged students, teachers, and the Board to explore all of culture with Christian eyes. We didn’t just read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; we went to see the ballet in Toronto. We didn’t just read our church history text; we went to see “A Man for all Seasons”. Ballet and movies were new experiences for me; thanks, TDCH and Mr. A, for opening to us, with Christian guidance, that part of cultural life.
In Grade 12 the English class produced Literary Sparks, a book of student poems. Writing poetry was hard work: sharing your heart can make you sweat. In Bible we were challenged to avoid moralism while preparing a Sunday School lesson on the story of Joseph; it was impressed on us that the big themes of salvation history, of God desiring to live in relationship with a people he loved, were to guide us in the telling of Bible stories.
Other things that stand out for me are the Grade 12 Geography class enjoying a spaghetti meal cooked by Miss Masselink at her home; Mrs. Posthumus, modelling excellent posture, teaching typing skills at lunch hour; Mr. Van Brummelen assigning an essay, of all things, for Math class. In the Christian Life course, Mr. Witvoet gave us wise counsel on how to live and think Christianly. Altogether, it was a very unique experience, and has had a lasting impact on me.
After Grade 12 I returned to Georgetown District High School for Grade 13. I graduated from Waterloo Lutheran University (now Sir Wilfrid Laurier) with a History major, travelled in Europe and the UK for a year, and then attended Lakeshore Teachers’ College. In the meantime I met Bob Proper, and was truly Alice in Wonderland! We moved to Eastern Ontario in 1979, and have lived at the same address ever since. Our five children grew up with goats, chickens, and pigs, and were junior horticulturalists; we learned an awful lot from them, one of whom had special needs. Our tough times and times of joy have drawn us close to each other and to God. We praise him for adopting us into his family!
TDCH really has a lot to do with family. Many parents, together with their children, made and continue to make wise and sometimes difficult decisions. I am thankful for my parents’ big step of faith in sending my sister and me to TDCH. One generation will tell the next that our God is great and that his faithfulness endures forever.
Congratulations, Board, Staff, and students on being a school that, I hope, continues to provide a unique education.
Alice (Neutel) Proper, TDCH Class of 1966
Story #23: Mark Speelman
High School Reunion
How would you like to take an all-expenses-paid trip for two months to the Dominican Republic? All you have to do is “put up with” chaperoning 16 Grade 11 and 12 students through their struggles and joys along the way. This is not what typically comes to mind when you hear the words “high school reunion,” but this is how my reunion with TDCH began, 10+ years after graduating, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The physical building at TDCH has undergone a series of facelifts, inside and out, since I strode the hallways. But the category of change that struck me most was the variety of courses and ways of learning that are now available, effectively addressing a broader spectrum of personalities and learning styles. I can only speak to the teacher and program I was personally involved with—International Block—but I suspect similar impacts are being made in unique ways through the other teachers and their respective classes and programs.
Being disconnected from our first-world society was refreshing. Life in the Dominican may be slower-paced and relatively archaic in some ways, but it’s not really that their culture is “behind”; it’s simply different. This is an important lesson, and one of many that the students and I learned during our two-month visit: from learning another language to adjusting to the lack of running water, becoming resourceful instead of wasteful, and loving on orphans as God loves us, we grew in more ways than I can describe and developed a brand-new perspective on life. This dynamic, unpredictable environment gave us opportunities to mature in ways not possible among the comforts of home.
During these eight weeks I also had the opportunity to build relationships with 16 students, three fellow “chap-a-whats” (a term coined by the group), a teacher with extraordinary passion and courage, and many other people I met along the way. The students taught me lessons and showed maturity far beyond my own at their age.
A true highlight of the trip was the simplicity of life that allowed me to see God in our everyday actions. His presence easily fades into the background of my “busy-ness” here at home, but we were able to see him clearly at work with us in our efforts in the Dominican.
As the students I met graduate, I’m confident they will take forward with them the lessons and perspectives they gained in the Dominican. Though it may not happen right away, or as often for some as for others, I’m confident there will be a time when God uses these lessons in their lives and in my own.
Mark Speelman, TDCH Class of 2000
Story #22: Fred Witteveen
TD Alum Serves the Poor & Marginalized
After two years at TD (1977-79), I transferred to Newtonbrook Secondary School in North York for Grades 11 to 13. I was accepted at the University of Toronto to study International Relations, but before starting, I volunteered for two months at a Christian orphanage in Egypt. My interest in the Middle East had been sparked by my Grade 9 History class at TD and the Israeli-Egyptian peace process in the late 1970s. At the end of that summer I responded to an altar call to offer myself to God for full-time Kingdom service. That commitment has led me to interesting places.
In my first year at U of T, I decided to transfer to Calvin College for the pre-seminary program. Before moving to Michigan, I volunteered at the Yonge Street Mission in Toronto, where I was introduced to urban poverty and street ministry. I returned to the summer ministry there after my first year at Calvin, and had a great experience learning performing arts and how to relate to the poor. Rick Tobias, Evergreen’s new Director at the time, became a mentor to me.
I enrolled at Calvin Theological Seminary in 1986. My interest in working with poor and marginalized communities had grown, so I spent my internship year as the student pastor at Roseland Christian Ministries Centre on Chicago’s Far South Side. That year I met and learned from key leaders in the Civil Rights movement: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Andrew Young, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other members of Dr. King’s Chicago circle. They taught me about the history of race in North America and the church’s role in undoing the effects of racism and other forms of injustice.
After I graduated from Calvin, Christian Reformed Church leaders in Toronto encouraged me to develop a proposal to plant a new church in Toronto. I did, and was called to start a church in the Jane-Finch area, a neighbourhood plagued by high youth unemployment and gang activity. For the next 17 years I pastored Friendship Community Christian Reformed Church (FCC). From the beginning our vision was to be a neighbourhood church that embraced the nations. It was a challenging community to pastor in, but I learned how to lead people from diverse backgrounds and how to achieve much with little. In 2000, to sharpen my leadership skills, I enrolled part-time in the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business (York University) in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. By the time I left FCC in 2008, I had joined with other church leaders to help create the Jane Finch Church Coalition and the African Canadian Christian Network, organizations committed to engaging city churches to reach the most marginalized.
This work ultimately led me overseas. In 2008 I moved my family to Kenya to lead the Kenyan program of World Renew (formerly Christian Reformed World Relief Committee). Like the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, Kenya has been a challenging but rewarding assignment. World Renew builds the capacity of national church partners to transform local communities by improving livelihoods and health and by building peace in regions vulnerable to conflict. I consider it a privilege to serve in this way, and look back with thanks to God on my journey so far.
Fred Witteveen, TDCH student 1977-1979
Story #21: Suzanne Veenstra (nee Knibbe)
A Solid Foundation
Growing up, I felt like TDCH was that unattainable place time would never allow me to reach. I grew up hearing about the adventures my parents and older siblings had had at high school, and I couldn't wait to step through those doors as an official student.
Now, almost eight years after stepping back out through those same doors into a big, bright world filled with opportunity and expectation, I appreciate TDCH for much more than the adventures it brought. Yes, there were certainly adventures—music tours and drama festivals, basketball tournaments and geography canoe trips with unimaginably bad weather, busy lunches with ridiculous friends, Art classes filled with the scent of acrylic on canvas, and piles upon piles of Calculus homework (though I’m not sure that quite qualifies as adventure)—but beneath all that was the slow process of learning who we were and what we thought of the world. We had to make big decisions based on those discoveries: decisions about what was going to shape us, who we would let influence our character, and how that would ultimately determine our future.
As a high schooler concerned first and foremost with getting into my university of choice, I couldn’t have put that whole process into words. As I navigate the waters of life after academia, however, and grow more aware of and involved with our changing culture, I can see the role TDCH teachers and curriculum played in helping me distinguish what I believed, discern between right and wrong, understand truth, recognize and avoid apathy, and acknowledge that God must be the foundation of absolutely every part of our lives.
This realization grew during my studies in Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph, and continues to grow now that my husband Wayne and I have been thrown into the throes of seminary life in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We don't know where we’ll end up in two years after Wayne graduates—or after five, ten, or twenty years. Our future is uncertain, but our foundation is solid; without that, we’d simply melt into the messy mush of confused culture that we wade through every day.
Praise God for his faithfulness throughout TD’s fifty years of excellent education, and may he continue to build strong foundations in generations of students to come!
Suzanne Veenstra (nee Knibbe), TDCH Class of 2005
Story #20: John Knibbe
TDCH 40 Years Ago and Beyond
I’m grateful for the TDCH experience. I appreciate the enduring friendships I developed and (now, more than then) the dedicated teachers I had. Some teachers even braved chaperoning a class campout; hats off to them for putting up with a bunch of boisterous teenagers!
Somehow, extracurricular activities seem more memorable than the academic bits. Hanging out at the smoking area was the social focal point. Busing from Willowdale was usually fun, though more for the students than the drivers; I can still hear Moses calling out in his heavy accent, “RREmain seatTET!” I won’t mention the firecracker incident in the library that earned two of us a week off.
Mr. and Mrs. Brelsford’s theatre productions were annual highlights. Especially memorable were Arthur Miller’s All My Sonsand The Miracle Worker, the Helen Keller Story. SAC week (Student Administrated Curriculum), when students could choose all kinds of ways to spend a week learning something of interest, was another highlight. One year, under the guidance of teacher George Beusink, a few of us used block and tackle, fastened to the south stairway landing, to extract the V8 engine from my old Rambler. We took the engine apart, rebuilt it, and put it back in later that week. It ran.
Following graduation from TD, I worked on a BA in English and a BEd at York University. Instead of finishing those degrees, however, I took a year off and responded to the call to “Go West, young man.” I took up carpentry in Calgary, was blessed with a thriving church community, and established many friendships that continue to this day.
Going back to school was meant to be, though, so I went to the University of Western Ontario and obtained a law degree. I’ve been a lawyer in Calgary since 1982, self-employed in general practice most of the time. For the last few years I’ve focused on wills and estates.
I’ve stayed with the CRC, helping out as I can from time to time. My main volunteer commitment now consists of working on the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, which screens social justice documentary films. Other passions include windsurfing, skiing, music, art, and reading.
Thanks to the TDCH community for many good memories!
John Knibbe, TDCH Class of 1973
Story #19: Hetty Verhage-Voorberg
From TDCH to TDChristian
It always strikes me when I check out www.tdchristian.ca how the reference has changed over the years from TDCH to TDChristian. What’s in a name, you ask? Lots!
As a supporting non-parent, I’ve also noticed that the entire school community, from board to staff to students, works hard at “educating teens for service in the light of God’s Word”. From the service trip in Toronto at the start of Grade 9 to the last day of Grade 12, the four years at TDChristian have a consistent focus that reflects a maturing school community. I’d like to think that those of us who came before helped make TDChristian what it is today. You’ve done good work over the years, TD!
I wasn’t the greatest student—Math, especially algebra, was my nemesis—but I graduated with a respectable average. I moved on to Grade 13 at a public high school, then to Humber College for a year to obtain a Secretarial Certificate, and out into the wide world to earn a living. Starting off as a clerk in a drug company I was introduced to our first word processor, a Wang system; I picked it up fast, and thought it was the cat’s meow. That first love eventually developed into a career in Information Technology. A curiosity about how things work, an eagerness to learn, a willingness to put in long hours (easy when you’re young), a good work ethic (thanks, Mom and Dad), and being in the right place at the right time all factored into what has been a fine career for me. I recently marked 28 years in the IT department of a law firm.
I also have a love story to share with you. My husband Cor and I celebrate nine years of marriage on June 4. To save you doing the math: we married when we were 49 years old! We had first met 18 years earlier, when Cor, who lived in Holland, came to visit his family in Canada. A friend of mine married Cor’s cousin, and I bought a house with the cousin’s old roommate; whenever Cor came to visit his Canadian relatives, he would stay at our house because his cousin’s house was full of boys, and we had a spare room. He was a fine guest, brought us fish from Alaska and other gifts, and was always welcome. Then when he visited in September 2002, a little light went on in my heart. To make a long story short, his light went on too! On a trip to Holland in 2003 I visited Cor’s house, and that was the start of a long-distance relationship marked by flying visits, weekly and then twice-weekly phone calls, and daily emails. After our wedding in Holland, we submitted the paperwork for Cor to immigrate to Canada—a fistful of paper, to be sure!
Cor and I are good for each other: he is calm to my less calm. We were given a marvellous gift—too late to send children to TDChristian, but not too late to know that we are truly blessed.
And, oh—I served at TD’s Tenth Anniversary dinner, in what was just a little kitchen back then!
Hetty Verhage-Voorberg, TDCH Class of 1973
Story #18: James VanderVeen
Further and Deeper: A Journey
Since my time at Toronto District Christian High School, God has taken me on an incredible journey. I’ve had many opportunities to grow in my faith and learn to love him more.
After I graduated, I took a year off from academics to work and to travel: my friend Steven and I went on a two-month backpacking trip to New Zealand. On this trip I saw the amazing beauty in God’s creation, and had the opportunity to observe the kinds of things my peers in New Zealand were pursuing. I was confirmed in my decision to give my life to following God.
After my year off, I headed out to British Columbia for an eight-month leadership program called Kaleo in association with Briercrest College. I cannot begin to estimate the impact this year had on my life and my walk with God. I grew deeper in love for God, prayer, his Word, and community. I especially learned to think seriously about Jesus’ mission and teaching and grappled with the implications of giving my life in his service.
My path led next to Briercrest College itself, in the small town of Caronport, Saskatchewan. My time here has been full and formative. I’m graduating in April 2013 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, with a minor in Ancient and Biblical Languages (Greek & Hebrew). While at Briercrest I have served on a hip-hop ministry team called Refined/Undignified, as a residence assistant in my dormitory, and, in my final year, as the Student Body President. The classes I’ve taken have certainly prepared me for a life of service, and for a life of careful study and application of God’s Word.
As my fiancée (whom I met at Briercrest) and I look to the future, we are excited to see how God will use us in his service to bring glory to his name. I consider my time at TDCH a great part of my continuing journey in discipleship.
James VanderVeen, TDCH Class of 2008
Story #17: Jess Bottomley
A Heart for the World
Four years ago, as part of TDChristian's International Block, I had the opportunity to volunteer with an organization called Healing Hands Global in Honduras for eight weeks. It was a life-defining experience.
Growing up in Canada, I was aware of poverty but did not understand how I could play a part in addressing it. My time in Honduras taught me that “the poor” were no different from me, and I decided that whatever work I chose to do in my life would be carried out alongside people who did not enjoy the privileges I had. So after high school I decided to pursue a degree in International Development and Globalization. My heart is to see proper nutrition, health care, and education made universally accessible, and to see human life and human rights valued and protected.
I had planned to finish up my program with a stint in the secular development sphere so as to have a well-rounded understanding of different kinds of projects and organizations, and then return to Christian “missions” after graduation. But this changed recently when I saw a Facebook post from Healing Hands inviting applications for summer internship. I sent in the application on a whim, wondering if they’d remember me and find a way to use the abilities I had to offer.
The upshot is that I will be heading back to Honduras for about 11 weeks as a volunteer intern with Healing Hands Global, serving at their Jungle Hospital mission base. My work will include everything from clinic duties to village visits to teaching about basic sanitation, deworming and vaccinating children, and hosting other visiting medical mission teams.
I could never tackle this all on my own, but Christ is a truth that is bigger than me and bigger than any difficulty I may face. The message I take with me on this journey is, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). We are loved, and it is our honour and joy to be love to the world through Christ.
Belonging to a family is my favourite part about being a Christian. I’ve been blessed to do life with a community of people who share a similar heart for Christ, and I want to see that heart grow in others; so while I don’t relish pouring out my soul on paper, I feel God leading me to share my story with you who are also part of his family and part of his plan. I’d love for you to see what I’m up to while I’m in Honduras and to join me in praying for the work I’ll be involved in. I will be keeping in touch via social media (Facebook: Jess Bottomley; Twitter/Instagram: @jessmbottomley) as well as my website and blog (www.jessmbottomley.weebly.com).
"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace." Acts 20:24
Jess Bottomley, TDCH Class of 2010
Story #16: Debbie Sawczak
TD Alum Comes Full Circle
When I started at TD in 1973 after attending Timothy Christian School in Rexdale, the families who weren’t Dutch and Reformed were countable on the fingers of one hand. I was younger than my classmates, small for my age even by non-Dutch standards, and uncool; I can’t say TD was the warmest of social environments back then for people who didn’t fit the mould, but I found friends to hang out and share the standard challenges of teendom with—including, sometimes, pretty deep conversations (and jokes) about faith that I couldn’t have with kids at my evangelical church. I also appreciated being noticed and known by my teachers, who encouraged me to cultivate God-given gifts and interests, especially in language and writing. Others who took a course with Mr. James will remember how he handwrote an insightful personal letter to each of us at the end of the year, outlining strengths we had developed and suggesting areas to work on. I still remember lessons from Mr. Suk’s Bible class, and classroom and hallway conversations on different topics with teachers and fellow students.
Unlike my siblings, I didn’t get to graduate from TD; the summer after Grade 10, our family went overseas for two years with Wycliffe Bible Translators—to Nepal, and then the Philippines. I finished high school by correspondence from the Ontario Ministry of Education, which (except for Grade 12 & 13 Math!) presented no particular challenge after TD; completing Grades 11, 12, and 13 in two years still left most afternoons free. It was a hugely enriching experience to live in Asia among people from all over the world, while continuing to feel the warmth of TD friends through regular letters.
On our return to Canada in 1977, I worked a year to earn money before going to U of T for French and German. Fellow TDer Alice deKoning was there at the same time, and we both joined a campus discussion group facilitated by the Christian Reformed chaplain. We often talked about our courses and their connection with Christian faith, and it was there that I met my husband Jan, a Polish Catholic.
I got my B.Ed. and landed a job teaching French at Durham Christian High in Bowmanville, eager to serve the educational system I’d been most blessed by. I enjoyed the school community there for four years, forming relationships with staff that continued long after I left. But teaching wasn’t what I was best suited for. So I returned to university for an MA in Linguistics and went to work as an editor-lexicographer for Gage, an educational publisher in Scarborough. During that time Jan and I had three sons and moved to Georgetown.
After many years of commuting between Georgetown and Scarborough, and seeing Gage change under new management, I left to become a freelance editor in 2003. That has been my work ever since. I also have a day job in a Christian bookstore in Mississauga, where I have the thrill of encountering people (readers and writers!) from all across the spectrum of Christianity. Editing and the bookstore are the ideal combination for me—I get to continue my Christian education, serve the community, and use my language gifts all at the same time!
Our sons have graduated from TD now, and I’ve so appreciated what the school has meant to them. Serving on the TD board and committees has been my privilege for many years, partly as a way of saying thank you and partly because it’s just such a wonderful place to be. May God continue to bless TD.
Debbie (Smith) Sawczak, TDCH Class of 1977
Story #15: Gerda Kits
University Professor Formed in Scholarship & Faith at TD
After graduating from TDCH in 2000, I attended The King's University College to earn a B.A. in Environmental Studies. TDCH had prepared me well for university: I had already learned how to write a good paper, study independently, and present my work to others—all skills that helped immensely with the transition to university. At King's we were constantly challenged to think about the connections between faith and action, and this, too, was familiar ground.
I had begun my studies at King's with the vague idea of pursuing some sort of career in social justice. Towards the end of my degree, my Economics professor suggested I think about completing a PhD in economics and maybe even coming back to teach at King's. I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about the idea, the more sense it made. I did have to catch up on a few courses to get into a Master's program, and as I struggled through Calculus by correspondence, and courses in economic theory at another large university, I realized just how blessed I was by my previous education (and that I should have listened to Mr. Groot when he told me to take Grade 12 Math!).
In 2005 I began a Master's of Development Economics at Dalhousie University. I was given the chance to complete the degree in one year rather than the usual two, which meant taking nine courses in two semesters and writing a thesis over the summer. I managed to get through it, but wouldn't take that route again! After that, I started a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Alberta. With the hope of a job opening up at King's, I had the motivation to finish that degree quickly, and was hired as an Assistant Professor of Economics at King's in 2011.
I now get to teach and discuss all kinds of interesting issues with motivated and talented students. As the only full-time Economics prof at King's, I teach a little of everything – from international development to microeconomic theory to ecological economics to economic history. I am enjoying the challenge of being a new teacher and figuring out how best to help my students learn, and how to help them think about economic life from a Christian perspective. There aren't a lot of places where I could do this kind of work, and I feel very blessed to have ended up where I am.
Dr. Gerda Kits, TDCH Class of 2000
Story #14: Theresa E. Miedema
How I Got an Ulcer at TDCH
Three things stand out from my years at TDCH: the fun I had, the community I experienced, and the faith I cultivated.
Yes, I had fun: I played some sports, did some drama, sang in the choir, helped run the store, was on Student Council, and started an underground student newspaper called The Ulcer because that's what it was giving us: ulcers from worrying about it. One of our proudest moments was when staff desperately tried to round up all the copies of one of our editions, apparently due to gratuitous references we'd made to drugs and alcohol (which, as I recall, we referred to as "the liquid of sin"). Our little paper even spawned some competitors, including one cleverly called The Antacid. Crafting The Ulcer was fun and exciting, no doubt because it felt just a little bit illicit, even though I'm sure our content was pretty tame. I'll always be grateful to the staff member (who shall remain nameless) that helped us with our little publication.
I also have very good memories of the community I experienced at TDCH. High school was a challenging time for me; my dad had passed away the year before I started. Happily, my mom remarried when I was in Grade 11, but she married an Albertan farmer and moved across the country. I wanted to finish my schooling at TDCH, but needed a place to stay. A conversation with my homeroom teacher, George Guichelaar, led to a solution: I'd board with him and his wife Karla, both on staff at TDCH. For two-and-a-half years, George and Karla effectively adopted me. At the same time, I felt the support of the TDCH community as I adjusted to living far from my mother. What a blessing George and Karla Guichelaar and the TDCH community were to me! I'm still in touch with the Guichelaars.
Finally, my faith continued to grow at TDCH. Not only did TDCH educate me well, it also nurtured my faith life and prepared me for the challenges that lay ahead at a secular university. While attending a Christian high school did limit my exposure to non-Christians and unChristian environments, it also gave me a sound Reformed worldview, a thirst for knowledge, the ability to think critically, and a strong faith. Life in a secular university is not easy, but I was prepared.
Today, I'm still in university, only now I'm on the other side of the classroom. After practising law for a while, I completed my doctorate in law and now teach at both Trinity College (in the University of Toronto) and Ryerson University. Secular universities continue to be hostile to Christianity, but students continue to become Christians and to mature in their faith. Thank God for TDCH, and may God continue to bless TDCH as it prepares students to go out into the world to bear witness to Him.
Dr. Theresa E. Miedema, TDCH Class of 1991
Story #13: Bridget Visser
Christian and/or Education?
My time at TDCH was a four-year stop in an educational journey consisting of thirteen years of Christian schooling and six years of public.
"Christian education" is an interesting phrase. Education, according to common understanding, is the transfer of knowledge from a series of teachers to a student over a period of time; however, when qualified by the term "Christian", education seems to shift its focus from the transfer of knowledge per se, to the Christian character of both process and content. Contrary to what some might think, however, the teaching of Christianity does not eclipse other kinds of knowledge. Training young people in the Christian faith is a responsibility that the school shares with parents and the church, but the main responsibility for imparting academic knowledge is the school's. I'm proud to say that, in my case, TD didn't lose sight of either responsibility.
In my first year of university, pursuing a degree in science, I had to take several introductory courses. These serve two purposes: to put everyone on the same page academically, and to ensure that students have all the background knowledge required to understand the courses that follow. In Chemistry, we covered nothing I didn't already know from high school until halfway through the second semester. I breezed through Calculus, and did well on my midterms; they weren't "an 80-car pile-up where everyone die", as one of my friends described his.
When asked how I understood the material so easily, I'd reply that I had already learned it in high school. Whoever was asking would then say, "Well, I didn't! What high school did you go to?" And I'd explain, "A private one, but not like a prep school; it's Christian, based on religious convictions..." At their confused looks I would sigh and just tell them I'd had really good teachers.
It's true – I had great teachers at a good school. The education I got at TD was not good "for a Christian school", it was excellent in comparison to all types of school. In short, I was well prepared for university.
School has other goals besides book learning, of course: learning about social interaction, learning that actions – such as a late assignment – have consequences, and, in religious schools, learning about faith. This helps students to become well-rounded persons. But in order to count the blessings God has given us, first you have to learn how to add.
Bridget Visser, B.Sc.Ag and in the midst of conquering an M.Sc., TDCH Class of 2007
Story #12: Karl Mikelsons
TDChristian: A Community of Blessing
TD is a community that blesses. Looking back, I see how much it has blessed me. It continues to be a blessing to my family even now, as there are still a few Mikelsons enrolled.
There are so many people at TD that shaped me. Coaches and teammates helped me find the best of my energies and skills, whether I was cheering from the bench in volleyball or playing the first 15 minutes of a half in basketball. TDs passionate musicians inspired a love of music that has lasted ever since. I recently met a stranger who turned out to be a TD grad, and we ended up talking about the excellent music program at TD: Mrs. Burke's energy and flair, Mr. Fluit's way of encouraging students. I saw TD's musical production, "The Sound of Music", in 2012 and congratulated Mr. Hayward on continuing the TD tradition of helping students produce great music. "They really put a lot of work into it," he said. Well done, students!
Other teachers and staff also had a formative effect on me. How can I say enough about this wonderful group of people? They're always looking to see what good you can do with what you know. Take Mr. Freeman, for example, who connected me with a food bank downtown and suggested a project that would help update their food distribution system. Or Bob, the custodian, who always had a friendly greeting and knew who everybody was. There are many other examples, and not enough room to write about them all; read the other 50-for-50 stories and you'll see what I mean! Perhaps the greatest blessing is the classmates and friends — people I'll remember for a long time, even if you didn't know at the time what an impact you had on me!
All of these people, the mentors, friends, and others at TD, along with the memorable assemblies and other shared experiences, naturally led me to seek community after I left high school: I became a Residence Assistant (don) at Conrad Grebel University College, a residence community at the University of Waterloo, and have continued to enjoy music and sports as a way to relax and get to know people. My "education for service" at TD not only prepared me to pursue an accounting degree and a career as a CA, but nourished a desire in me to use my gifts for good: I've had the opportunity to serve on the Audit/Finance Committee at Mennonite Central Committee, an international organization focused on relief, peace, and development in the name of Christ.
TDChristian is also a community to add your blessing to. Current students, you can do this by being active. Choose something you'd like to be involved in — you'll love it! Finally, to those parents, like mine, who believe in the value of community-style Christian education: thank you for your continued blessing!
Karl Mikelsons, TDCH Class of 2006
Story #11: Matt Logan
Honourary Member of the Dutch Community
This is my opportunity to say what an amazing blessing TDCH has been to me. I came out of university and was warmly accepted into your community as one of the few “non-Dutch” teachers at TDCH in 1978. I have such great memories of the two years I spent there and the incredible students I was privileged to know during that short time.
In 1980 I came to a fork in the road and, with some sadness, left TDCH to join the RCMP. I spent 28 years with the Mounties in BC and took early retirement in 2009. Most of my career was spent in Serious Crimes and I was able to complete both a Masters and Ph.D. in Psychology while in the RCMP. In spite of some rough times, God has blessed Nancy and me with five children and (so far) one grandchild, and we are enjoying living on the Big Rideau Lake near Perth, ON. I travel a lot as a Forensic Psychologist, doing Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) evaluations in the USA and conducting seminars and workshops worldwide with my company, HALO Forensic Behavioural Specialists.
I have taught at Police Academies, UVic, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Trinity Western (TWU), but my best memories of teaching are at TDCH. I fell in love with the community and thank God always for the relationships I formed with students, fellow teachers, and parents. TDCH has blessed us all. Happy 50th!
Matt Logan, Teacher, 1978-1980
Story #10: Andy Alblas
Creative Freedom Fuels a Passion for Faith and Learning
My time at TDCH began as the school community was celebrating its 25th anniversary. We went through some changes around that time as Grade 13 merged into the OAC (Ontario Academic Credit). An eccentric young teacher by the name of Phil Vriend came on the scene and began vigorously promoting the dramatic arts, in which I am honoured to say I took part. This gave me the background to produce many plays during my 15 years of teaching later on.
TD offered me opportunities for many different kinds of learning, including strong academics, music (choir), sports (volleyball), film-making, and faithbuilding (Power Club), all of which played a powerful role in shaping the person I am today. When my time at TDCH ended, the Lord brought me to Calvin College, where I earned a BA and teaching certificate.
For the next several years I was blessed to work in three different countries (USA, Canada, and Indonesia), honing my craft as an educator. It was during the third year that I began to understand what a significant experience it is to be exposed to a different culture, one that I would encourage everyone to embrace. Learning from the perspective of many educators from various countries opened my eyes to endless possibilities. After my fifth year in Indonesia, the Lord opened another door for me to develop leadership gifts, and I moved back to Canada to begin eight years in Wallaceburg, ON at Wallaceburg Christian School.
In my third year there I was privileged to become the school’s Principal, and shortly thereafter began a masters program at Calvin College, focusing on Educational Leadership. Playing guitar in the praise band at church and serving as an elder for three years contributed to fuelling my creative passion and continued to build my faith. In May, 2012, I graduated from Calvin with a masters degree and moved to Thunder Bay to take the new position of Principal at Thunder Bay Christian School.
As I look back over the past 25 years, I can see that it is God who has directed my every step. He continues to use the creative freedom I enjoyed at TDCH to fuel my passion for faith and learning. Thank you, TDCH, for playing a role in my life; may this year of celebration be a blessing for all.
"Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." -1 Corinthians 15:38
Andy Alblas, TDCH Class of 1991 (Grade 12) and 1992 (OAC)
Story #9: Adrian Elzinga
Reflections on TD Four Years Later
TD was an excellent experience for me. The community and teachers were great; at TD, everyone knows your name. I would recommend the school to anyone in a heartbeat. Having homerooms with mixed grades and having them meet every day was cool; you could glean information from people in various years, and it made the school a lot smaller because everyone knew everyone. I really enjoyed being involved in assemblies, behind-the-scenes work for drama productions, and planning events as part of the Music Council.
My Oma and Opa sent all their children to TD, and my dad’s family all went to HD, so Christian education has been in our family for a couple of generations. I would have to say that Bob and Mr. Templeton made the biggest impression on me while in high school. Bob knew everyone’s name and would always say hi when he saw you in the morning. And Mr. Templeton was the best math teacher I ever had—he engaged the class in a way that made learning math fun. I still remember some of the remarks he had for us in class. We'd ask him, "When will we ever use these formulas?" and he would say, grabbing his shirt collar and jerking himself against the wall, "What if you’re walking in downtown Toronto and a thug grabs you and threatens your life unless you can solve this Advanced Functions problem?" Apparently Mr. T wasn’t only a math teacher, he was also teaching us about self-defence. I can thank God the scenario he described hasn't happened to me yet.
After graduation I went on to Humber College, where I studied Electronics Engineering Technology and graduated with an Electrical Engineering Controls System certificate. While attending Humber, I networked with different companies and teachers, and those connections led me to my current job: right after graduation I received an offer of employment with a company that designs, develops, and supplies Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive accessories to premier OEMs in the automotive industry. I work with a team of engineers developing new products to sell to the OEMs, and I also run the day-to-day operations in the engineering workshop.
Over these past four years I have really felt God leading my life. Even though there were times when I was worried about things and wondering how God was going to make this or that bad event into something good, the way everything has fallen into place has taught me that he really does have a plan and a reason for everything.
Adrian Elzinga, TDCH Class of 2009
Story #8: Ben Westerik
Falling in Love with God's World at TD
I have always treasured the experience I had at TDChristian. Few individuals that I have encountered over the years feel the same way about the secondary schools they attended. I believe that the sense of community, the relationships that students build with each other and with their teachers, is unparalleled elsewhere. I will never forget the role that TDCH has had in shaping who I am today.
Among my greatest experiences at TDCH was being a part of the founding classes of both the Grade 10 Environmental Block and the Grade 12 Environmental Science course. It was during my time in Environmental Block that environmentalism took hold of the global consciousness in a way not seen in previous decades. As a result this was a fascinating time to be involved in these courses. They provided me with an avenue to discover more about God's creation, the severe issues it faces, and what we can do to remedy these problems. The hands-on involvement that environmental studies at TDCH gave me provided a unique educational experience that was pivotal in steering me towards post-secondary work in the field of Environmental Science and Biology at Trent University.
I have since become involved in reforestation in Ontario, planting trees, tending forest plantations, and managing planting and tending crews. I plan to pursue continued involvement in various aspects of forest ecosystem management in the future.
Benjamin Westerik, TDCH Class of 2008
Story #7: Cornelius Van Dyke
North by Northwest
As a boy, I spent many a Sunday afternoon on my grandfather's knee listening to his stories of days gone by. From him I learned that we each have to follow our own path, and that no one can predict the future.
Like many students in the '70s, I spent the first few years after graduation searching for my place in the world. I tried several different work experiences, from construction worker (not suitable) to finance company manager (definitely not suitable). In time I decided to return to school to learn a trade, graduating from Mohawk College in May, 1980 with a diploma in architectural technology.
In the '80s, wise people were saying, "Go west, young man, go west." I heeded their advice and headed to Calgary, where I landed my first job in an architectural office. With the Rocky Mountains as our backyard, it was a great place to live and work. My first son was born in Calgary, but my first marriage also ended there. After four years of single parenting, an unexpected meeting developed into a second marriage, and eventually, a second son. Twenty-five years later, Cherryl and I are still together, enjoying watching our children set out to establish their own families.
The economic slowdown of the early '90s nudged us to make a major move, and we reluctantly left the wide-open spaces of southern Alberta and headed north to Yellowknife, land of -45°C winter mornings and 'square' tires to 35°C summer evenings and golfing under the midnight sun. My new job had me travelling across the territory: east to Iqaluit on Baffin Island, north to Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, up and down the Mackenzie River from Inuvik to Fort Simpson, and many points in between. The decision to move north was one of the best I ever made.
The first decade of the 21st century wasn't without its difficulties. In the summer of 1998 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Living with a disability has made me a strong, vocal defender of people with disabilities of all kinds. I have spoken at housing conferences, been interviewed by news media, and am used as a resource by local building officials. In the spring of 2012, during an elders' parliament, I spoke in the NWT Legislative Assembly about the need for an inclusive society. I was extremely surprised and honoured when, later that year, I was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for my efforts on behalf of people with a disability.
From TDCH in the late '60s to my work in the north in the 21st century, my life has featured many twists and turns, many good times, and a few difficult times. My grandfather was right: the future cannot be predicted, and our path to it, bumpy or smooth, is ours to travel and experience to the best of our abilities.
Cornelius Van Dyke attended Grades 9–11 at TDCH from 1965 to 1968
Story #6: James Bloemendal
How I Was Challenged, Affirmed, and Encouraged to Pursue Music
After graduating from TDCH, I continued my studies in music at Redeemer University and have since gone on to become a worship leader, performer, educator, and songwriter.
It was during my time at TDCH that I developed a framework for how I could use my unique gifting to honour God in the field of music. All my teachers continually challenged my thinking and pushed me to keep improving. I learned how to think critically and counterculturally, and was motivated to do my best, because I saw my teachers modelling this daily.
After university I was hired to be the music director of a Christian Reformed church plant in Burlington called Living Mosaic Church. During this time I also started my own practice as a guitar teacher, giving lessons out of my home, in music studios, and in Christian schools. Once I had established some consistency in my church job and teaching, I had the space and time to form my first serious band, record an album, and then tour nationally a couple of times. That band has since stopped playing together, but through my time with those fellow performers I met my current business partner, Matt. Together we started a corporate/wedding band (Toronto Party Band) that plays 30 to 40 events annually, a songwriting partnership that has had the chance to co-write with Juno award-winning writers, and a folk/pop duo that performs our own material.
But I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it weren't for a conversation I had with my TDCH music teacher, Karen Burke, while I was in university. I called her in the summer between my first and second year, because I had a desire to do music but didn’t know how it could actually become a career and whether or not I would ever be good enough for it. I was comfortable asking Ms Burke about this: she knew me well, knew my gift and passion for music, cared what I did with them, and was an expert in the field. She laid out the way the industry worked, how musicians could make it happen if they were willing to work on a wide range of projects, and how character was almost as important as musical skill. She encouraged me to seriously consider music as a career, and I haven’t looked back since.
James Bloemendal, TDCH Class of 2001
Story #5: Katelynn Salemink
Welcomed Graciously, Allowed to Blossom: TD “Newcomer” Thrives
It is the changes in your life that shape and mould you into the person you become. When I entered the halls of TDChristian for the first time in Grade 11, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into: a new town, a new house, a new church, a new school, and lots of new people that I had to get to know. I had no idea how I would fare through so many changes in just a couple of short months; I felt like the country mouse from the children’s tale “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse”, stepping into a world unknown.
However, unlike the mouse in the children’s story, I was met not with hostility but with kindness. I was welcomed graciously at this new school, and was soon finding ways to do the many things I wished to do, enjoying opportunities that had not been available to me previously. My artistic side was allowed to blossom at TDChristian, and I was able to be a part of the various choirs, small vocal groups, and praise team through the guidance of a fabulous music teacher. TD really helped me to look at life from a different perspective and to discover things according to my own learning style. I was finally able to enjoy physics and algebra and to grow in my passion for the visual arts.
Three years after my graduation I completed my degree in opticianry. Through God’s providence I now sing in the OCMA Choir and am the soprano for the OCMA Vocal Quartet, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m also still working with my passion for the visual arts. My job as an optician has allowed me to make some great connections with artists and studio owners, learning from their experiences and sharing in our love of God’s stunning creation around us.
But the most joyous development in my life is my engagement to Mike Strating, my wonderful fiancé. We are planning to be wed next year, the Lord willing, before family and friends.
God truly is great and gracious in the paths He sets before us!
Katelynn Salemink, TDCH Class of 2010
Story 4: Richard Menken
From TD to a Pulpit in Holland—and Beyond
Dearest friends of TDCH!!
Sitting behind my computer and reading all the stories of where, what, how, and with whom has stimulated me to write a few lines about what I’ve been doing since TDCH. After graduation in 1978, I went for two years to Humber College for Advertising and Graphic Design, and then worked for two years as a graphic artist in Toronto. Not feeling challenged enough, I went back to school and completed a BSc at the University of Guelph. I followed this with four years at the Chiropractic school in Toronto, graduating in 1991 as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Five days later I left Canada with a one-way ticket for Holland, to spend at least a year discovering my 'roots'. And I never went back! Next year it will be 20 years that I've been living in the wooden-shoe, cheese-eating, tulip-growing country of Holland—and loving it! I met my Dutch wife Wilma in 1994 (she was a single mother with a beautiful five-year-old daughter named Tessa), married four months later, bought a home in Apeldoorn (next to the castle "Het Loo" from the royal family), and never looked back! Things are good, GOD is good! And we feel extremely blessed!
I’m presently working four days per week in my practice in Apeldoorn. For the past seven years I’ve been an oudsten (elder) in an evangelical church in Apeldoorn, which involves doing weddings, evangelism (among the homeless and addicted), other elder activities, and preaching (yes, in Dutch) once every six weeks in our congregation of about 300 people. I never was good at speaking in public (hyperventilating, fainting), but have been miraculously healed of that weakness. Apparently GOD wanted me to give a number of messages to His children! I do that with a lot of drama, humour, down-to-earth human examples, and props. I've used a double bed on our platform for a sermon on sex, dressed like a prophet when preaching about Hosea, climbed a huge tower to deliver a sermon about the Tower of Babel—you get the idea. I believe that GOD is extremely creative (just look closely at His creation) and that creativity should be used in our worship services, including music, multimedia, and whatever it takes to get the life-saving message across! And the message is catching on! Services at our church are meant to be 'guest-friendly', so we encourage members to bring friends, family, colleagues, and so on. More and more guests are coming—and staying!
My wife and I have also been doing lots of work in Tanzania (Africa) where we financially built and support three orphanages. Due to the ravages of AIDS, there are incredible numbers of street children who have never seen the inside of a school. In the orphanages we support there are now 59 children that have a home, meals, and clothes to wear to school. My wife Wilma, our daughter Tessa, and three other people will be visiting Tanzania again this summer to further expand our mission work there.
It feels like I’m bragging when I reread this, but that is absolutely not my intention. I give all the credit to GOD!
All the best to all of you, and be blessed.
Richard Menken, TDCH Class of 1978
Story 3: George Petrusma
A Grace-Filled Journey
My hair is shorter. My curls are gone. Grey has replaced blond. My stomach and forehead are both larger than they were in the late seventies. Fifty-one years of earthly living have taken their toll on my appearance, but not on my steadfast perspective that the Lord has woven His grace through my life’s journey.
Here is the “Coles Notes” version of my journey after TDCH. Attended Calvin College from 1979 until 1983, graduated with a B.A. in Education, and accepted a teaching position at Durham Christian High School in Bowmanville, Ontario, where I taught from 1983 to 1990. Married a wonderful lady from the west named Charlene in 1987 and had our first child, Ashley, in 1988; our second child, Shayne, joined us in 1990. Changed schools to become the vice-principal of Hamilton District Christian High School from 1990 until 1997. Had our third child, Rachel, in 1992. In 1997, decided to switch to elementary education and accepted a principal’s job at Knox Christian School in Bowmanville. Gained my masters degree from Calvin College in 2003. Moved again in 2010, and am presently the principal of John Knox Christian School in Oakville.
These short details about my life cover the historical, mundane facts, but neglect the real substance of life. I could write a book about the way in which God has directed my family’s life journey. From the people who have crossed my path and challenged me, to the sudden death of my father, to the educational paths of my children, to the challenges and celebrations of extended family members, to significant events experienced with my students, to watching and sharing in the growth and development of my own children’s hearts and minds, to walking life’s journey with a wife who is my soul mate and at times takes steps for me, God’s grace has been sufficient.
“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17-18). May we as TDCH alumni take those three directives to heart as we celebrate 50 years of God’s faithfulness.
George Petrusma, TDCH Class of 1979
STORY 2: Rita Aalbers (nee Knibbe)
TDCH started with Grade 9 in Timothy Christian School, an elementary school in Weston, Ontario. I couldn’t go, due to lack of transportation from Springdale. One of the Vanderkooi boys worked in that area of Toronto and had room in his Volkswagen for three passengers, including his brother; that left two spots for a brother and sister from another family, so I ended up attending public high school for Grade 9. I was excited when my parents told me I was going to TDCH for Grade 10.
That year, classes met in the basement of the Christian Reformed Church in Weston. We had three classrooms and the Fellowship Hall, with the kitchen as the staff room. Each student had a small wooden cubbyhole for a locker. For gym, we either went out to the valley behind the church, where it always seemed to be hot, or walked to Timothy and used their gym. At lunch, if you ate fast, you had time to walk to the variety store to buy packs of gum with Beatle cards inside.
Our form of transportation was a little school van driven by one of our teachers, Mr. Olthuis. We had to hightail it back from Weston to meet our connecting public school buses, but if we were quick, Mr. Olthuis would stop at the Dairy Queen so we could make a mad dash for Blizzards and sundaes. We never asked how fast he had to drive after that to get to our transfer point! For Christmas we each knitted a square and then sewed them into a patchwork sweater for him. We thought it looked fabulous. Thinking back, it was a little tight in the sleeves, and probably ugly. However, he wore it to class.
Certain memories stand out from those days, like voting on the school’s motto. I voted for the short and simple “Christ in all; all in Christ”, but “In Thy light we see life” won out. I also remember the time our French teacher was called out of class and then came back and told us that JFK had been assassinated; we were stunned. For a year-end outing, the whole school went to Hidden Lake and stayed in cabins. Ours had a record player with a 45 called “Do you love me?” by The Contours, which we played non-stop. A group of us girls got thrown in the lake because we didn’t want to get up for breakfast.
I served at the Trowel Action dinner where they pledged funds for a brand new high school; I think we put too many bowls of potatoes on one table and not enough on another. My Grade 12 year was spent in the new building in Woodbridge, and I remember being so impressed with all the space and the wonderful gym! We had a girls’ slumber party, a box lunch social, and student council elections where one candidate actually drove his dune buggy through the front doors and into the gym as a grand entrance. Needless to say, he got elected.
To raise money, we had a walkathon from DeBoer’s warehouse in Toronto to the Springdale Christian Reformed Church. After working in the field from dawn to dusk in early summer, I pedalled around Springdale on my bike, getting sponsors. I think I brought in $300—a lot for that time. We also sold light bulbs; when my Dad took my brothers to play hockey in Schomberg at night, I went door to door by myself, selling. I came in second for total sales; Ted DeBoer was first.
After TDCH, I completed Grade 13 and Toronto Teachers’ College, and taught for two years in Brampton. I then attended Trinity Christian College and continued my Christian school teaching career in Woodstock and Strathroy. My husband, Gary Aalbers, was also an elementary Christian school teacher and vice principal.
We are now both retired and enjoying our three sons and their respective wives and girlfriend, as well as a grandson. We spend our time volunteering on church committees, driving for VON, teaching Friendship, and working at the Second Chance Construction Store for the local Christian school. We soak up some Florida sunshine in the winter, but leave some for others while we go on an occasional cruise with friends.
Rita Aalbers, TDCH Class of 1966
STORY 1: Derek Schuurman (85)
Thinking About Technology and Faith
I attended TDCH during the early 1980's, an exciting time at the dawn of the personal computing era. While I was a student I worked together with my math and computer teacher, William Groot, to introduce the first office computer and network at TDCH. This included writing software to manage student records and timetables. Little did I know that this first primitive office computer, with its daisy-wheel and dot-matrix printers would give way to a flood of computers, tablets, high-speed networks and wireless access points throughout the school within a decade or two.
From TDCH I went to the University of Waterloo to study electrical engineering. It was at this time I met my wife, Carina, while visiting Redeemer College. Little did I know that Redeemer would eventually play another significant role later in my life. After finishing my degree I worked for nine years for two separate high-tech companies and earned a masters degree along the way.
I received an excellent technical education, and upon graduation I felt confident I could tackle whatever technical challenges would come my way. However, it soon became apparent that my excellent technical training had lacked in providing me with a context for my work. More specifically, it was not clear to me how my faith related to my work with technology. I began to read and think about this question and it would persist over the following years.
It was during this time that my wife and I sensed the Lord was prodding me in the direction of teaching. Eventually, in 2000, we decided I should quit my job and return to school to earn a PhD so that I could teach. At this point I had three small children, a mortgage, and no clear idea how this would all work out. However, after we made our decision to return to school, things began to fall into place much better than we could have planned. As my studies neared completion, our fourth child was born, and Redeemer University College decided to hire a computer science professor. It was abundantly clear that God was taking care of us.
As I began teaching at Redeemer, I began rubbing shoulders with Christian scholars who encouraged me to continue to think about what faith has to say about computer technology. This question eventually led to a book I have been working on entitled Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture and Computer Technology which will be published by InterVarsity Press in June 2013.
I am thankful to God that he led me to a Christian academic community which builds on the education I received at TDCH, a community that takes seriously the question of how faith informs learning in all things, including computer technology.
Derek Schuurman, PhD, TDCH Class of 1985 (Grade 12) and 1986 (Grade 13)