Some gifts hold their value

Mieke Vanderkolk

Instructor Nate Townsend

Instructor Nate Townsend takes a long look at his ever-growing wall of artwork, cards, and grad party invitations. “This card that I got from IB Chemistry from my student teaching semester is pretty good because they all write me a little something,” said Townsend. Decorating the card are cute cartoon animals saying farewell phrases like “Gonna miss you, Kangaroo” and “Hope I can cope, Antelope.” Students further decorated it with signatures and notes to give Townsend a nice sendoff from student teaching in 2018. Townsend makes sure to point out one of his favorite signatures, “You WILL miss me, Johnny.”


Instructor Joette Gulbis

A beautiful memorial hides at the top of Instructor Joette Gulbis’ bulletin board. A chalk depiction of the Twin Towers still standing tall. Unfortunately, the artist of this piece is unknown but purchased by Gulbis’ students many, many years ago. “After 9/11 I had students purchase that chalk art up there that represents all the American ideals and the Twin Towers,” said Gulbis. Gulbis also mentions her yearly tradition, where her students write their family origins on a poster board. The 2022-2023 poster hangs in the corner of the room, and under her desk are several years past. “The poster represents all the multi-cultural diversity that we have at West Ottawa, which I think is absolutely beautiful and amazing,” said Gulbis.


Instructor Ann Kirkendall

You can tell how well-loved Instructor Ann Kirkendall is by the overwhelming amount of art and student gifts surrounding the classroom. Kirkendall said, “It would be very hard for me to choose because I have kept everything that students have given me: drawings and cards and invitations and all of it, and it all goes on that same bulletin board.” She is not lying, the bulletin board is overflowing with sentimental papers, “Some days when I’m having a hard day I just look at it and it makes me feel very good,” said Kirkendall. One piece in particular by  Nick Vanliere holds a place in Kirkendalls’ heart. This was a project for a humanities class and includes an artist statement explaining the meaning behind it all. The torn and dirtied canvas with a bright, beautiful flower in the middle stands for loneliness and the ability to use strength and spirit to overcome loneliness.


Instructor Teresa McCrumb

Occasionally students will bring back souvenirs from trips and vacations. Instructor Teresa McCrumb received a bowl with a beautiful elephant inside from Andrew Elwood after his return from a Thailand trip. “This is definitely one of my favorite gifts because it’s very functional and I use it all the time,” said McCrumb.  Inside the bowl, she keeps paper clips, which may be the easiest office supply to lose. This gift also inspired McCrumb to consider a Thailand trip for her Rotary Club in the future, “Now I’m hoping to take students to Thailand in 2025, the Rotary Club,” said McCrumb. The bowl even has a personal touch, her favorite animal. “I definitely love elephants so it was a very nice gesture,” said McCrumb.

Instructor Maria Aguilera 

Instructor Maria Aguilera was given a soccer ball by a student named Hannah (last name unknown), who then passed it around to all of the students in the class. Many of them wrote personalized messages, one message specifically gives Aguilera a little more motivation. “One of my students wrote a special message saying ‘don’t stop teaching’ because sometimes teachers are burnt out,” said Aguilera. This is a great reminder for all students that teachers are trying their best, especially after devastating events like COVID-19.