Alleman’s Lynn VanDeHeede is diocese’s Distinguished Teacher for 2015-2016

Lynn VanDeHeede meets with seniors Ally Zahringer, Rachel Elliott and Kyler Yodts to plan an activity at Alleman High School in Rock Island. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

 

ROCK ISLAND — Counseling at Alleman High School changed when Lynn VanDeHeede became the director of the department 11 years ago. A teacher who enjoyed her time in the classroom, she didn’t want to be isolated from the students or see them only when something got serious enough to require intervention.

With Kathy Miller and Deacon Tim Granet, her coworkers, she opened up the offices to make them a hub of student activity that included peer tutoring, counseling assistance and celebrations. She also is the student council moderator, oversees Students Against Destructive Decisions, and coordinates the annual dance marathon to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.

"I truly believe that the best counseling is based on a relationship." -- Lynn VanDerHeede, Alleman High School, Rock Island

“I truly believe that the best counseling is based on a relationship.” — Lynn VanDeHeede, Alleman High School, Rock Island

“I truly believe the best counseling is based on a relationship,” she told The Catholic Post. “If I’m in a room all day long by myself I’m not building a relationship with the students. By me being involved in these clubs and organizations, I’m seeing them outside. They’re more apt to come in and share.”

In addition, being where the students are helps her to see the challenges they’re facing and enables her to respect what they’re going through, she said.

Her commitment to the students is just one reason she was named the Diocese of Peoria’s Distinguished Teacher for 2015-16.

“Lynn has such an amazing passion and enthusiasm for Alleman High School and our students,” said principal David Hobin. “Lynn is incredibly dedicated to the well-being and success of each and every student at Alleman and not just while they are here, but for the rest of their lives.”

“We sometimes forget that counselors are teachers and they truly see the whole child, the whole student — not just their academics,” said Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria. “The relationships that counselors develop within an environment of care and skill are tremendous gifts to any school administrator and to their teachers, students and families.

“Mrs. Lynn VanDeHeede is exemplary in forming these relationships and in integrating a faith that is real and true to the teachings of our church,” Weiss said.

STUDENTS UNDER PRESSURE

That focus on the whole person is vital at a time when students are under more pressure than ever to test well in order to get into the college of their choice, according to VanDeHeede.

Many parents will remember that when they were in high school they took one college entrance exam. Those “one and done” days are over, with students often taking the ACT or SAT to gain admission to college and then several more times in attempt to raise their score and obtain scholarship money.

“If they raise it one more point that’s $4,000 a year, which is correlated to $16,000,” VanDeHeede said. “That’s one more point in the ACT. The pressure that these students have!”

Encouraging words in Lynn WanDeHeede's office. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Encouraging words in Lynn VanDeHeede’s office. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

She works with the teachers on all grade levels to see where the students are facing challenges on these standardized tests and helping them improve.

“They come to us for whatever they need and we find a path to get them there,” VanDeHeede said. “It comes back to helping them with their goals. Our job is to give them the steps and encourage them to take that action so their dreams can be met.”

Because there has been such a dramatic shift in the SAT and ACT tests, VanDeHeede asked Weiss if it would be possible to form a network of high school and elementary school counselors in the Diocese of Peoria so that information could be shared and decisions made. The Diocesan Counselors’ Network was established in the fall and was to meet for the second time on Jan. 27.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

An alumnus of Alleman herself, VanDeHeede likes to help people make connections.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with English and social studies endorsements from the University of Iowa, and has taught in public schools and Catholic schools, including Seton Catholic School in Moline. Her professional resume also includes work as a customer service representative, branch manager and retail office manager in the banking industry, and advertising sales for the Quad-City Times.

“It enabled me to get out into the community and build relationships with people I represented and I really enjoyed it, but I was really missing the classroom,” VanDeHeede said.

She eventually returned to teaching and her alma mater, Alleman, where she taught English. When she was getting ready to go back to school to get the education needed to work on the high school level, an opening came up in counseling and she got her degree in that instead.

“Being in the classroom first helped me to understand not only the student perspective, but the teacher perspective,” VanDeHeede said. “We always try, when we’re working with the students, to keep the teacher in mind because we think it’s an important part. We don’t look at it as separate systems. It’s all one, together, being on the same team.”

She explained that one of the most important things she can do is help the students find the gifts and strengths within themselves and understand that God is always with them. That faith is their constant, she told The Post.

“I am honored to be able to receive this recognition, but I believe I share that not only with my colleagues here — Kathy Miller and Deacon Tim Granet — but also all the teachers and administration and staff,” VanDeHeede said. “It’s all of our work together that helps everyone shine and to make a difference. Their support, their own values, their heart and their passion for their positions help us be the best, hopefully, that we can be and make a difference for our students.”

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