In Caledonia, MI, Melanie VanderPloeg, second-grade teacher at Zeeland Christian, began her faith journey. To this day she still resides in that small town where she discovered her love for Christ in third grade at Bible Study. In awe of the great Creator and the ways to pardon our sinfulness, she welcomed Jesus into her heart. Since that day, Melanie has been overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for Christ’s perfect gift and thrilled to share it with her many students.
God’s call to teach his Word reached Melanie during her senior year of high school. In Acuña, México, she served with a youth group and taught Bible lessons daily to children. Teaching in Spanish helped her find a passion for not only the profession but the language as well. Her love for Spanish led her to find a home within ZCS, which she discovered as a sophomore in college. During her internship, Melanie was encouraged to visit a school known for being innovative and noticed ZCS listed among the schools. Not long into her visit, she had already fallen in love with the school and the Christian community it offered. “Feeling God’s real and powerful presence in the people throughout the school made me eager to hopefully return one day,” she says, “it still feels like a dream that I get to be a part of Zeeland Christian!”
Every day when she comes to school, Melanie reminds herself that we never know the way we will impact someone. We don’t always know how much your kind words will mean to someone, how much they will appreciate the writing lesson, or how we can make someone’s day be at least just a little better. “I love teaching because I’m able to make a difference in children’s’ lives and also walk alongside them through whatever difficulties that arise in their life,” she says. The impression she desires to make on her students is that God is always present and that He wants to be known through us. She hopes that they will look back upon their time together as a time in which they mutually grew in faith and love of God.
A memorable experience for Melanie took place last summer, during her first year of teaching. Particularly nervous about reading, her student worked diligently on reading throughout the entire year. Although there were difficult moments in learning, the student’s confidence in reading skyrocketed, and they now beam while reading! Seeing her student become an avid reader was one of the greatest gifts in the world for Melanie. She believes that we never know exactly how God will accomplish his work and to what extent, and loves getting to be a part of his great story!
“Every day, students are looking to me to see how God dwells in my heart and works through me,” she says, “the biggest lesson that I have learned is that I must look to God for guidance and wisdom in everything that I do.” When planning a lesson, she asks herself how her lesson will enable students to learn more about God and also give them the necessary skills they need to be agents of renewal. Melanie has learned that to direct students towards God, they must experience her love for God in how she interacts with people and how she connects her faith with the lessons. A line from the Bible she always remembers is 1 John 4:8: Whoever does not know love does not know God, because God is love. “God’s unconditional love is incomprehensible to me, and with their humility and strong faith,” she says, “the children remind me of how life-changing it really is to know Jesus.”