The Chilliwack Progress is honoured to profile seven ‘Heroes in Education’ from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us from the Chilliwack community.
Lynnette Van Winkle isn’t yet 50 years old but she’s been involved in the Sardis secondary school (SSS) community for most of her life.
That’s because prior to teaching at the school for 21 years, and prior to going to university, Van Winkle was a SSS grad and she says she’s a Falcon through and through.
“I have an expression: Once a Falcon, always a Falcon.”
Van Winkle isn’t just a lifelong Falcon and a teacher, she is so much more as her impact is felt in many sectors of the school and the district.
She’s a learning assistance teacher (LAT), a student services teacher (SST), a counsellor, a staff sponsor for the Key Club, she helps organize commencement, and she’s a districtwide mentor for other teachers.
“I worked with Lynnette last year and witnessed a teacher willing to help her students with any problem they are having in their schooling, both during and outside of school time,” that according to her Heroes in Education nominator Dylan Hewitt.
“She is often among the last to leave the school ensuring she is prepared to help all students, not just hers, the next day.”
Unlike most teachers who have a specific focus, a role educating students in a specific subject, Van Winkle has the big picture approach both practically and philosophically. Day to day, it’s her job to help students who need extra help, whether it is with course content, organization, long-term planning, or just mental health relief.
“I’m no expert in the courses,” she says. “What I’m really good at is knowing who to talk to. As a student it can be overwhelming to approach adults. My job is to be a connector, an advocate.”
On the counselling front, and as an LAT/SST, she also helps kids deal with the every day pressure of working through school, particularly a new system in a pandemic.
“I’m there for them to have a place to say ‘This is a lot.’ It’s a place to work through some of those stresses.”
Hewitt reiterates that Van Winkle’s support isn’t limited to her students.
“She is an active member of our district’s mentoring committee serving as a mentor for new teachers in our district.”
This is something Van Winkle takes great pride in, the push and pull of learning from young teachers coming up while being a mentor and a source of inspiration for them.
“New teachers and student teachers are my favourites because they have so many questions, so you have this great opportunity to share two decades of experience.”
Two decades it is. Van Winkle is an SSS grad from the class of 1993, a high school career where she was heavily involved including with student council. After university she came back to SSS and she’s been there ever since.
As for graduation, she has helped during this challenging time of virtual gatherings and limits on people in groups.
“That’s been interesting organizing last year and this year, trying to find a way to make as meaningful a ceremony as possible for kids, to still make sure that we are celebrating this amazing milestone and making sure they are seen and recognized.”
What keeps her going?
“Watching students see their own successes. I’m a cheerleader. I’m a champion for kids and I advocate for them with others.
“What’s your goal?” she likes to ask students. “I’m here to make your goal a reality and I will work tenaciously to make it happen.”