Vanderheyden wins teacher of the year


With eight years of dedication to cultural relevance and inclusion under her belt, teacher Barbara Vanderheyden was presented with the Teacher of the Year Award for the 2020-2021 school year.

While the district typically holds an in-person event to recognize recipients, this year they personally visited Vanderheyden’s classroom to congratulate her.

“I was very surprised since there were so many people and that they brought an entire gift basket as well,” Vanderheyden said via email. “I am very appreciative and grateful of the entire district staff that came and all the gifts from the community.”

Contrary to a lot of teachers on campus, Vanderheyden teaches an array of subjects including Physical Science, Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum and Pre-algebra, with her science and Pre-algebra classes being Specialized Academic Instruction.

When starting her career, Vanderheyden said she had initially anticipated instructing AP English, however, the Great Recession in 2011 forced the teacher to substitute for a special education class. Despite this change in plans, Venderheyden said that her experience working with students in special education has developed her teaching style to focus more on building relationships with students and breaking down the social barriers that separate them.

“Not only do I work on building trust with my students, but I also create an environment that is safe to fail and learn from our mistakes,” she said. “Mistakes are learning and you have to feel safe enough to make mistakes and then get help correcting them to really learn.”
In addition to this teaching style, Vanderheyden has committed herself to improving the quality of education for special needs students through several reforms. One such project was her partnership with English teacher Ces’Ari Delmuro last year aimed toward adjusting the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum class to be more culturally relevant.

“The unit that we are particularly proud of is our Seven Revolutions unit which we paired with the Global Village 100 project,” Vanderheyden said. “Each student in both of our classes studied a particular Global Villager and the different ways the Seven Revolutions [seven major changes in the future] will affect their particular villager.”

Despite her achievements, Vanderheyden continues to hold several goals for the future, such as utilizing the new science building for projects in her SAI classes. She also is looking towards incorporating 3D printing into her SAI math and science classes.

With any project or reform she brings to DBHS, Vanderheyden only has one goal for her students; she wishes to leave a lasting impact on their high school experience and influence them positively.

“I am deeply aware how much my teachers impacted me as I was growing up,” Vanderheyden said. “If I can have my students leave my room knowing that I cared for them and pushed them to grow, then I consider that my greatest success.”