Lowell — For the past two years, Principal Craig Veldman has opened Cherry Creek Elementary School classrooms to Lowell High School students who hope to become teachers.
One of those students, senior Patrick DeVoest, spent two hours, four days a week this school year in third-grade teacher Peter Lang’s classroom.
“We have an amazing staff of teachers here for our young people to learn from,” Veldman said. “When I heard of this program and students needing to be placed, and I knew quite a few of them (including Patrick), I was like, ‘Let’s bring them in!’”
Veldman works to match teacher cadets enrolled in the Kent Career Tech Center’s Teacher Academy with Cherry Creek teachers who have similar personalities and interests. For example, Patrick had expressed his desire to someday teach third grade, so Lang’s class was a natural fit. A total of eight juniors and seniors have been placed at Cherry Creek.
The Teacher Academy recently honored Veldman with the Outstanding Principal award for supporting the next generation of excellent teachers. DeVoest received a Golden Apple Student Award, as an exceptional senior committed to the education profession.
Caledonia High School’s Kloey Brown also won a Golden Apple award, and Grandville Public Schools teacher Melissa Sokolove, who provides mentees with opportunities to take on increasing levels of guided leadership within the classroom, earned the Outstanding Mentor award.
“I gained so much from my experience at Cherry Creek,” Patrick said. “To begin, I gained memories and friendships that will last forever. Also, this year I got to stay with the same class all year, so I really got to see (students) develop physically and academically.”
Veldman is happy to hear that.
“We need to cultivate young teachers and attract the best people, because our kids need it. One of the things I wanted to do was have them feel the great culture we have in the building. I wanted them to see how our teachers communicate with families and kids,” he said.“I really wanted them to get the real-life, ‘this is what teaching is about’ (experience).”
Experiences in Teaching
The Teacher Academy, which completed its second year in May, places high school juniors and seniors in local classrooms to gain exposure to the teaching profession.
‘We need to cultivate young teachers and attract the best people, because our kids need it. One of the things I wanted to do was have them feel the great culture we have in the building.’— Cherry Creek Principal Craig Veldman
“The program is designed to let students experience what it’s like to be a teacher,” Veldman said. “For students to leave high school and have that experience before getting to college, to say, ‘I know that is what I’m going to do,’ this gives them a really great taste.”
Veldman said exposing students to the profession helps build the district’s teacher pipeline. Several Cherry Creek teachers are Lowell graduates and community members.
“One of the cool things about being in the community is being able to develop some of these young teachers, and hopefully they go to (college for teaching) and … come back and interview for positions and work in our community,” he said.
Patrick said he’s more certain than ever that he wants to be a third-grade teacher. He plans to attend Michigan State University’s Teacher Education program.
“Mr. Lang taught me a number of things, but two main takeaways were how to manage misbehaving students in a way where you keep them in the classroom and on task, and also how to teach students while having fun. It is hard to be ‘the fun teacher’ while also teaching kids to the best of their ability, but Mr. Lang makes it look easy.
Lang said it was great to have Patrick in his class working with students.
“Patrick is a fantastic kid. He just jumped right in,” Lang said, noting that the Tech Center had provided Patrick with training for reading intervention.
“Just for him to walk in and have a game plan was amazing. It brought an energy into the classroom.”
Read more from Lowell:
• Theater students find community through Matilda musical
• Love and positivity, multiplied