Joanne Van Ert’s degree came from Eastern Washington University where she attended college after beginning her journey as an educator at a Spokane school. After graduating from high school, Van Ert says she was fortunate to find a principal who mentored her and gave her the experience of working in a school for the first time.
Van Ert talks about that first experience with students, “When I was in high school I did a practicum at a school that was just for special needs students. The principal took me under her wing and I fell in love with working with children. I went on to work at this school after graduation from high school. Later, before going to college, I worked at a state institution for severely handicapped children. Again, I fell in love with this work. At 25, I went to college to get my degree in special education.”
Superintendent Linda Quinn talks about Van Ert’s contributions in Ferndale. “There are some people who spark joy – Joanne is one of those people. She has been an important part of the culture of this district and has had a positive effect on morale. I appreciate her dedication to our youngest learners as a teacher in our developmental pre-school program. I want to wish her my very best as she begins the next phase of her life.”
When asked about her best day as a teacher, Joanne said, “I think the best day as a teacher for me is those days when I come in and my students are happy to be there; happy to see me and eager to learn. Watching my students grow and realizing that I make a difference in their lives makes my job feel meaningful.”
After decades as an educator, Joanne talks fondly of a student she worked with early in her career, “JJ was his name. Early in my career I worked for the Spokane School District. There was a nursing facility for children who were too medically fragile to go out to school and the local school district hired me to go to this facility and teach. JJ was 2-years-old. He was too young to be in my class but the nurses brought him down to my room. Although he was non-responsive, I could tell he felt my presence. I knew I made a difference in his short life. After work, for months, I had the honor of just holding him and being there for him as his family lived far away. He passed away at the age of 3-years-old. Part of JJ’s legacy in me is that he inspired me to continue working with special needs kids.”
Students come to Joanne at all levels of development and ability but she says that there are commonalities in her student relationships that help her to understand that she has made a difference. She says, “With my job, it’s the little things; eye contact, first real communication; reciprocal interaction. Watching my students get excited about learning fills my heart!”
Joanne’s signs off with a reflection about the Ferndale School District, “I think what I will most remember about Ferndale School District is the close knit community. I love that administrators know you and the feeling of belonging.”
This story is brought to you as part of a series of stories about our teachers in the Ferndale School District. Teacher Appreciation Week is being celebrated May 6th – May 10th in the Ferndale School District and around the country.