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WMU honors VanWyk as Outstanding Mentor Teacher

By Jason Wesseldyk
Sports Editor

Since starting her teaching career at Dix Street Elementary in Otsego 25 years ago, Kristin VanWyk has provided mentorship to more than 25 aspiring teachers.
For her efforts, VanWyk was the recipient of the Outstanding Mentor Teacher Award presented by Western Michigan University’s Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies Department in the College of Education and Human Development.
One elementary teacher and one secondary teacher receive the award annually.
“I feel so honored,” VanWyk said of receiving the award. “Working in Otsego at Dix Street is an absolute joy. I love coming to work every day and I love who I work with. 
“The fact that I can, on a daily basis, share something I love to do with people who have set a goal to do the same is a gift. To be affirmed for something I love to do was completely unexpected.”
WMU teaching supervisor Kerry Hegele informed VanWyk of the honor.
“This award goes to a mentor who serves as an outstanding teacher role model for interns, practices the highest standards of professionalism with colleagues, clearly demonstrates on-going collegiality and meaningful collaboration with WMU faculty and staff and offers positive and constructive guidance and feedback to interns to support their growth as a teaching professional,” Hegele said.
VanWyk was honored at a ceremony at WMU on April 26
“From the first year I started teaching, I have had interns,” VanWyk said. “Anyone can always learn more from others and grow from others. I love the collaboration that mentoring offers. I also feel that through mentoring I can share my true passion with aspiring educators first-hand.”
Macy Smith was one of VanWyk’s most recent student teachers.
“During my time in Kristin’s classroom, I grew tremendously as a person and a teacher,” Smith said. “Kristin had such a big impact on my life, and I am so thankful I was placed in her classroom.”
During Smith’s time as a student teacher, Hegele came in to observe her in the classroom. Through that experience, Hegele was able to see how passionate VanWyk was about providing guidance to aspiring teachers.
“What really impressed me about Kristin was her ability to create such a supportive and encouraging space for a teacher candidate to learn,” Hegele said. “She guides her interns through the semester in such a way where they have endless opportunities to try new things, create lessons, activities and ideas, all with her support and guidance.”
While VanWyk is now the one who serves as a mentor to new teachers, she vividly recalls being mentored herself at the start of her teaching career by veteran teacher Jane Adams.
“Jane was the best mentor I could have asked for,” VanWyk said. “I so appreciated the honesty, commitment and humor she provided. She quickly became not only one of my co-teachers, but also my friend. 
“Her friendship is something I will cherish always and we still talk now years after her retirement. Her impact on my career is unmatched.”
For anyone who is entering the education field as a teacher, VanWyk has a few words of wisdom.
“The message I would share is to believe in yourself and remember that no one day is repeated,” she said. “Be mindful of your actions and words, keeping in mind everyone comes from a different place, situation, home or experience. Start new when you walk through your workplace door and trust in your co-workers as they will trust in you.”

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