Barb Newman

Barb Newman - 1962-2020

Inclusion Pioneer

Years at Zeeland Christian: 30+

Years in Christian Education: 35+


B.A. Calvin College, 1984: Grades K-8 Teaching Certification, Cognitive Impairment Endorsement
M.A. Grand Valley State University, 1999: Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Developmental Delay with a concentrated Study in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Author of 14 books, speaker for churches, seminaries, and Christian schools around the country, consultant for CLC Network

In 2020, the world lost Inclusion Pioneer and Henry J. Nouwen Award winner, Barbara J. Newman. For those who knew her at ZCS, we lost a colleague and friend who gave the best hugs and always brought out your best. Barb was one of the first teachers to work students of varied abilities when Zeeland Christian transitioned to an Inclusion model in 1989. In the 30 years that followed, Barb transformed the world be helping us all realize what we gain when everyone is included. We all have a puzzle piece, and a puzzle isn't complete unless each piece is included. 

Barb's legacy lives on in thousands of students and teachers around the world. It also lives on through the Barb J. Newman Legacy Award which honors individuals who have left a significant legacy at ZCS. This award is handed out annually at the ZCS Legacy Event.

We miss you, Barb. Thank you for your life of service to Christ and others.


Henry J. Nouwen Award, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 2015.
Christian Service Award, Bethesda Lutheran Communities, 2012.
Barbara Lipinski Award of Merit, 2007.
Great-West Michigan Teacher, Grand Rapids Press, 2006.
National Leadership Award, National Council on the Handicapped, 1988

What do you love about Zeeland Christian?

"I’ve always felt that God has positioned me in the front row to watch the miracles He is doing in people’s lives. Whether that is an individual reaching a milestone no doctor predicted or hope dawning in the eyes of parents as they watch their child be embraced by a community, I am continually in awe of God’s power, healing, and presence."

Why are you passionate about Christian Education?

"How could I not give voice and praise to God for the way He has knit a community of students of varied abilities and disabilities together at ZCS? How could I not invoke God's blueprint and name the "body of Christ" as we instruct the children in why we are this type of community? Christian Education has the reason for living together this way, and I love to give the label of God's handiwork as I look at the lives of students and the way they fit together - One body, together in Christ!"

What do you want others to know about you? 

"Barry and I were married in 1988, one year before coming to teach at ZCS. We have two sons, John and James, who both attended ZCS as students. Just this summer John wisely married Jasmine who is now my prized daughter! We recently moved back to Holland from the Grand Haven area and are discovering the joy of being back in this tight-knit community. I enjoy reading as well as any games that assemble letters or shapes into a formation. Words with Friends, Candy Crush, and Scrabble are some of my favorites. I enjoy swimming and also enjoy having people over to our home. Woven through all of the celebrations in life as well as times of difficulty through the years, God has given His presence and meaning to my life. His Word fuels my day and our times of quiet together ignite meaning as I wake and as I go to sleep (as well as many times in the middle). I am currently trying to memorize more Scripture and love this one from I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 as representing what I am asking God to make happen in my life each day. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.""

One life lesson your students have taught you:

"There is no Holy Spirit Junior. I will never forget one of my students with Down syndrome who was part of a drama I was leading. I had a very difficult day and showed up at the church where we were performing the drama with a heavy heart, but a fake smile plastered on my face. I tricked everyone. They all thought I was happy and ready to be part of a worship service. Except the Holy Spirit revealed my secret to this student. He put his hand on my shoulder, and in words broken by his difficult speech, he said, "You sad. I pray you." And he did - right there. God sent him to me on that day and revealed my heart to this student. I was touched forever by the way God uses each of us when we offer Him our lives. "