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The following was submitted by Vanessa Croshaw
"Miss Van Dam is an exceptional 5th Grade Teacher at Draper Elementary. How do I know? Because her kids confidently know that she genuinely cares about them. Yes, they learn Math, English, Social Studies and all the rest of the "important stuff", but so much more meaningful is that she truly, deeply cares about her students, and they know it. Without disclosing too much, Christina had the worst upbringing of anyone I've ever met. It involved abuse, a parent in prison, countless foster homes, and finally living on the street beginning at age 15. She knows what hurt and disappointment feels like, and wants in the deepest part of her heart to help her students feel that they will always have someone who believes in them.
In addition to her regular teaching, Christina VanDam arrives an hour early every day of the week and teaches Choir to 140 children on Monday & Wednesday mornings, Chess Club on Tuesdays, something else on Thursdays (I'm forgetting what it is) and just picked up Coding on Fridays. She genuinely wants to give the students every opportunity to excel in the "thing" that resonates with them.
She has a class pet, Hulk, the turtle, which she uses to teach the kids responsibilities: they are each on a schedule to clean, feed, care for the turtle. She hopes to someday teach at a school that has Square Foot gardening because she sees endless possibilities to learn from that hands on experience.
Miss Van Dam doesn't boast about what she does. She just hopes to help her students become the best version of themselves. She sends out parent communication at least once a week, and does what she calls a 2x10 with 3 children per week. 2x10 means that she makes a specific appointment with them and listens to them for 2 solid minutes. She learns so much about their personalities, home life, goals and aspirations as well as their at-home struggles and insecurities. The student leaves feeling listened to and cared about, something she was missing as a child.
I can tell you more about her if you're interested. She goes WAY above and beyond what a mainstream teacher is required to do, and it's making a BIG difference in the lives of her students!"