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19 Retirees Graphic High School  Staff Joan Banner

Grand Rapids Christian High School 

Joan VanderWilp, Dean of Student Life

Where did you begin your career in education?
35 years ago at Grand Rapids Christian High 

Do you have a favorite year that you worked? What made that year stand out in your mind?
The year of the major construction project at the high school. When everyone had to walk outside to go to the CAW for chapel - there was not one single Tuesday that we were in the rain. On the Tuesdays that had rainy mornings, it cleared long enough for us to trek back and forth to the CAW. Everyone was "in it together", positive in the face of the most unusual disruptions - students and staff alike. It was a year of "it is what it is" and the Lord blessed us beyond all we could ask or imagine.

Tell about a moment in your career that you will never forget, possibly at an event or with a student.
I am having such a wonderful time greeting my former students who are returning to the high school with their teenagers - returning home with the next generation to be part of that history and experience. That is a wonderful testimony to the parents' high school years and to God's faithfulness from generation to generation. 

Another layer of that has been having my grandson here where his dad and his great-grandparents spent their high school years. He and I will graduate together this year. It's made the whole idea of moving on from a job I absolutely love easier as we both move on to new adventures together.

Tell about your greatest learning from a colleague, student, parent or PD Day. 
Early in my career, a chapel speaker called a student to the platform, one who had been such a challenge in the speaker's class. The speaker helped the student take of his shoes and sox, gently slipped each foot in a basin of water, and proceeded to wash the student's feet. His message was about Jesus washing the disciples' feet. If Jesus would stoop to wash the disciples' feet, the least the teacher could do was the same for his student. I have never forgotten that message. I try to live that out in real ways with students and staff as they need to know they are cared for, of great worth, and well-loved children of God.

What are you looking forward to or what is your next adventure?
Here's my starting place on this new adventure: Joshua 1:9 - "...be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go."

We are starting a huge kitchen remodeling project in our Heritage Hill home, will be doing other projects there, and just as exciting, I will have the chance to have August back and be in the sunshine up north. I plan to take Geology classes and volunteer at DeVos Children's hospital. 

Those are my plans - it will be delightful to see what the Lord has planned and how He may redirect my thinking and planning. So here is where I land: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. 
To God be the glory!

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