Sunnyside Christian School is excited to introduce our new Superintendent and Elementary Principal! Brad Van Beek will be moving to Sunnyside in July and will start his duties then as well. Brad has spent the past four years teaching at a Christian school in Santiago, Dominican Republic. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children. Alan, who is 14, will be a freshmen at Sunnyside Christian High School. Their twin daughters, Genet and Rahel, will be 3rd graders.
We asked Brad why he feels called to the Principal position at Sunnyside Christian, and this is his response. "I have been a teacher for nearly 25 years and have loved it. I especially loved the relationships I was able to develop with my students. I know I will miss being in the classroom, but it was time in my career to move in a new direction. We have lived the past four years in the Dominican Republic and even though we have enjoyed our time here, we felt it was time to make a change. One of the things my wife Ruth and I were looking for when we began our search was a place that had a large Hispanic community. My wife is originally from Honduras, I lived there for 5 years and four in the Dominican Republic so I am familiar with the culture. We both speak Spanish so we wanted to be able to use that wherever we moved to."
One of the biggest changes for them will be the small-town feel of our area. "We presently live in Santiago in the Dominican Republic. It is located in the Cibao Valley with a total population of the Santiago and the surrounding area of nearly 1 million people. Moving to a town of around 20,000 will be the first change," Brad says. "Another difference will be the weather. After living 4 years in a country where it is summer all year, we will once again move back to 4 seasons. Our kids are very excited to see snow. Even though, Ruth and I are less excited about winter, we are looking forward to experiencing the changes of seasons."
"Washington was always a state I thought I would like to live in," Brad comments. "My wife and I have a bit of an adventurous spirit, and we know that Washington is a beautiful state, so we cannot wait to get out and explore."
Brad and Ruth visisted Sunnyside in January, but have since learned more about our area. "After getting the job at Sunnyside Christian, I found out that a couple people I know grew up in Sunnyside," he says. "They both went to Sunnyside Christian School. They had only great things to say about the city and the school. They both said it is a great place to raise a family. We are looking forward to be part of the Sunnyside community."
Please feel free to leave a comment of welcome and greeting for our new Principal and his family! We are excited to have you, Brad, Ruth, Allan, Genet and Rahel!
Throughout your child's elementary years at Sunnyside Christian School, we place a high emphasis on reading. We use two tools to help us measure the progress of our students' reading: the STAR reading test and Accelerated Reader (AR). Our third grade teacher, Mrs. Sandy Martinez, has put together this overview of these two programs. Let us know if you have any further questions!
What are the reading tools SCS uses to measure reading?
STAR Reading Test—This test is taken online at school to assess students’ reading levels. Each test has 34 items of varying, adaptive difficulty, based on student responses. Both reading comprehension and vocabulary proficiency are tested.
Accelerated Reader—AR is an online reading quiz program at school that allows
students to demonstrate how well they understand the books they read. Thousands of book titles are available in the AR quiz library. The books are leveled by grade level and assigned a point value based on length and difficulty.
Why do we use them?
STAR Reading Test—This short test is just one tool used to guide teachers in their reading instruction. It gives teachers good information about student and class progress. Many reports are available to show information about a variety of specific reading skills.
Accelerated Reader—AR is a great tool to give teachers a quick snapshot of how well a student comprehends what he/she is reading. Based on how a student is doing on his/her quizzes, a teacher can make informed recommendations for more books that will be good for that particular student.
How do we know our child’s reading level?
The STAR Reading Test results include your child’s reading level. You will see a Grade Equivalent (GE) score. A GE of 3.4 means that your child is reading at the level of a 3rd grader in the 4th month of school. Your child’s teacher will be able to share that information with you once the STAR test has been taken.
How do we find books that our child can read and be challenged by?
Also included in the STAR Reading Test results is a suggested range of book levels for your child to use while choosing books. Books selected in this reading level range will allow your child to experience the most success while reading. Choosing books at the higher end of the range will provide the most challenge for your child. Our school library books have been labeled with the books’ reading levels and the number of points each book is worth.
** Note—Just because a child can read well above his/her grade level doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she should. Careful consideration of the content of a book should also be taken into account when choosing a book.
** www.arbookfind.com is a great website that shows you if a book is an AR book and what level it is. You can also do an advanced search to look for books that are at a certain level, about a particular topic, or by a favorite author.
** There are also several apps available that allow you to scan a book’s bar code to see if it is an AR book and what level it is.
What is important while children are learning to read and learning to love reading?
Books, books, and more books!! Surround yourself and your children with all kinds of things to read! Magazines, comics, recipes, road signs, word puzzles…be excited with your children as they recognize the letters and words they are learning at school.
Let them see you reading. Read to them every day! Use different voices! Make it fun. Take turns reading. Stop at the exciting parts….to be continued! Build the anticipation! Go to the library together. Read a variety of books about a variety of things. Search book stores and thrift stores for good books to read over and over.
When you find a book your child enjoys, find more like it by the same author or about the same topic. Talk to your child’s teacher if your child is reluctant to read. Ask for suggestions. Let reading take you and your child on countless adventures together!
Physical Education, a simple 30 minute class for our Littles, seems to consistently be a favorite, and I am fortunate enough to teach it. They love the opportunity to run around freely- moving and shaking what our Creator gave them. Unbeknownst to them it is much more then exercise.
Physical Education is not simply for kids to learn to exercise. Along with physical skills, they learn to cooperate, share, predict, listen, goal set, adapt; be kind to others, share, have grace, love, etc. The more I observe the students in my class, the more I see the Bible come alive through them. And I can't help but picture a gigantic Father God who takes great delight in the joyful smiles on the faces of the Littles down below.
I see their bodies as an expression of worship to the Creator. From the way they move to the status of their hearts. They begin excited to have fun and be silly, or on the contrary, too shy to be fun and silly. When they do put their heart into it, they can get frustrated when something isn't easy enough for them. Then they want to quit. They want to pout. They want to be mean to others. Or perhaps they are excited about their performance. They want to brag. They want to be proud. They want to be mean. But as they come more often to PE, spend time with their classmates and are trained at home, I see their social, physical and emotional changes. Then I imagine our loving God smiling from above watching them move and shake the hearts He gave them.
In light of these factors, giving formal grades based on abilities is extremely difficult for me. I do formal and informal assessments for my own information and base their grades off attitude and participation.
My goals as a PE teacher include developing a love for movement, incorporating Godly principles within athletics and increasing skills. The seven different skills I target are: flexibility, strength, endurance, speed, agility, coordination, and balance. I work to incorporate each skill monthly, if not weekly. I work through a variety of sports and manipulatives from juggling scarves to basketball and hockey hoping one of these will excite and inspire. Each heart has a different love. Something must be going well because they are all smiles when they come each day!
Much like our Littles, I didn't realize how special of a class PE is nor how big of an impact it can have. I find myself fortunate to be the instructor for this class and hope I honor Him as I help guide minds and bodies in their worship.
Why did you choose Sunnyside Christian for your children?
Scott and Melanie: We chose SCS for our kids because getting a Christian education for our kids is a priority to us. We both attended SCS and want to see it grow and thrive for our kids and generations to come.
Sunnyside Christian tuition is an investment in your children. Why is it worth it?
Scott and Melanie: Investing in a Christian education is worth it to us because we can’t think of anything better to invest in than our children. We strive to raise them to be competent and confident individuals who can contribute to society. As believers of Christ, we hope they will become strong men of God who can continue to impact others in a positive way and honor God throughout their life. By providing them with an education that is grounded by Christian morals, we are equipping them with the tools they will need to tackle the tough situations life can bring.
What do you like most about the education your child receives at SCS?
Scott and Melanie: We like that the classes are small enough for teachers to be able to get to know each child, individually. We appreciate the communication between teachers and parents. It’s a great relief to know that if a problem arises at school, someone will contact us so we can work together to correct the issue. We love knowing that the teachers and staff at SCS see each child the way God does, as a wonderfully and uniquely made child of God with their own gifts and talents.
If any, tell us about changes you have seen in your child/family since attending SCS.
Scott and Melanie: I think for us, a fun change was going from being students of SCS to parents of kids at SCS, and walking down those same halls with them! It really opened our eyes to how much God has blessed the school over the years, and we truly hope that SCS continues to further impact our community for God’s glory. We also agree, that we have a new-found appreciation for the investment our parents made in us, by giving us a Christian education.
If someone was thinking about sending their child to SCS, what would you tell them?
Scott and Melanie: If someone was considering SCS for their kids we would encourage them to try it. It IS an investment, but like I said – it’s so worth it! SCS has great teamwork between the staff and parents and they really strive to work with each family. We are a strong community of families working together to help our children have bright and healthy futures. We also know that our children are safe and well cared for while they are at school; we have seen how the staff looks after each child as if they were their own and that is very reassuring.
In fact, during 2nd grade, our oldest son’s class could earn tickets as a reward for good behavior. One of the items they could use their tickets for was lunch with the principal! You might wonder if any child would actually choose that as a reward, but in fact one particular day our son told us that 7 of the kids chose to eat their lunch with the principal; and that just made me smile to imagine all of them having lunch together. It’s clear that he is also investing in our kids by building relationships with them, and that is something to be valued.
If applicable, tell us how your education growing up is different than what your children are experiencing at SCS.
Scott and Melanie: We both attended SCS, and there was no pre-school at that time; which has been a great addition in recent years. Both our boys attended pre-school and it was just enough time to help them gain confidence and become familiar with being in school without being gone all day; they both adjusted to kindergarten gracefully.
When we were in Jr. High we did typing class on the old type writers…no auto correct, if you hit the wrong key you couldn’t hide it! This year our son had to bring a flash drive to school, to save his computer work on which wasn’t something we ever needed, so we appreciate the schools efforts to keep current with technology so that our kids will have a good understanding of that.
Other than the ever changing technology world, I don’t see any change in the quality of our education in comparison to our kids; that’s one thing SCS does with excellence. We were very well prepared for life and I am confident that our boys will be too.
How are you as parents involved in Sunnyside Christian?
Scott and Melanie: Our favorite way to be involved at SCS is by participating in the classroom and attending field trips or special days at school. It is so much fun to be involved with our kids at school, get to know their classmates and see how they interact with others. It is such a joy and privilege to have the opportunity to be so involved in every aspect of our boys’ lives, we are so grateful for SCS!
Today we're sharing the Sunnyside Christian School story of Katelyn Banks, a senior at Sunnyside Christian High School.
SCS: Hi Katelyn, what do you like most about the education you have received at SCS?
Katelyn: It has well prepared me to attend the college of my choice, make wise decisions, and live a happy, faithful life.
SCS: Tell us about a teacher or two who has impacted you at SCS.
Katelyn: Mr. Wierenga – Although I only had him for one year, Mr. Wierenga left a lasting impression on my life. In the 5th grade, I can vividly remember him encouraging me in my school work to persevere and work hard. Because of his encouragement, I really started putting my fullest effort into my academics. He took myself and a few other classmates to a “Math is Cool” competition, and I remember us having a blast together. He also was a great encourager and supporter of my athletics. Even in high school, he came to some of my basketball games and congratulated me on my efforts. He was an “above and beyond” teacher, and I will never forget his lasting, positive actions toward me.
Mr. Smeenk – not only did I have Mr. Smeenk as a teacher for a couple years, but he has also been my high school basketball coach for over the last four years. Ever since being his student in junior high, he has actively cared and supported me in all my endeavors. From academics, to athletics, to being a dairy ambassador, he has been to a lot of events supporting me that were not even always school related. Mr. Smeenk genuinely cares about each and every one of his students and players. We have spent MANY hours in the classroom and gym together. It has been an amazing journey with him as my basketball coach, and I would not change the memories I have with him or my teammates for anything.
SCS: If someone was thinking about sending their child to SCS, what would you tell them?
Katelyn: When students left SCS, it was usually do to them wanting more opportunities at a larger high school. I was always discouraged and wondered if I was missing out on something by attending a smaller school.
However, I am so grateful I stayed at SCS. When you are a student at SCS, every teacher and faculty member knows you by more than a name. You are part of a family. I often took this simple thing for granted. At bigger schools and universities, students are typically known by their first name or number. This is definitely not the case at SCS.
I love the relationships that I was able to build with my teachers. They really do care about each student. Whenever I had to miss class, the teachers would be willing to meet before or after school to help me catch up. Theirs is not an eight hour job. I have met teachers at 6 a.m. for help on my homework, seen them cheering me on at a game after school, and even met up with them on weekends for homework help. Their care is very genuine for the students.
SCS: How are you involved at SCS?
Katelyn: I have been attending SCS since Kindergarten with Mrs. Bos. As I grew older, I became more involved with different activities and clubs SCS had to offer.
I was on the student council in junior high for two years, played AAU and middle school volleyball, basketball and softball, participated in the geography bee, and Math Is Cool.
In high school I participated in student council, FFA, yearbook, varsity volleyball, basketball, and softball, and honor society. Whether it is being the student council president or captain on a sports team, there are many opportunities for me at SCS to participate in an array of activities, as well as hold leadership positions within all. I developed valuable skills and built my self-esteem through being so involved.
Because of my academic achievements and extracurricular activities through SCS, I have been awarded with $83,000 in scholarships to continue my education thus far. Athletics are also a big part of my life. Through participating in sports at SCS and improving as an athlete by my SCS coaches, I was offered Division 1, 2, 3, NAIA, and community college scholarships to continue my passion for basketball.
SCS: Wow, congratulations! What is next for you after graduation?
Katelyn: After graduation, I will be attending Seattle Pacific University. I will be double majoring in human physiology and biology. I was also accepted into SPU’s BioCORE program. My ultimate goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Alyssa Haak attended Sunnyside Christian School starting in Kindergarten and graduating in 2012 from Sunnyside Christian High. She transitioned into college at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, and is graduating this spring with a Business Management degree with an Accounting minor. Recently, Alyssa was awarded an honor for her achievements, and she’s sharing her Sunnyside Christian story with us.
SCS: Hi Alyssa, what business award did you just receive at Whitworth?
Alyssa: Hi Sunnyside Christian! I received the award for "Outstanding Senior in Business Management."
SCS: How were you chosen for this award?
Alyssa: This is a faculty selected award based on academic excellence, classroom involvement, extracurricular activities, and upstanding character traits.
SCS: How many receive this award?
Alyssa: In the School of Business, there were 93 graduating seniors. One person from each major (accounting, econ, business management, and finance) was awarded Outstanding Senior in "X" major. I received the award for the Business Management major.
SCS: Congratulations! What a great accomplishment! How did your education at SCS and SCHS prepare you for your education journey at Whitworth?
Alyssa: At SCS, I had heard that our curriculum was more rigorous than surrounding schools, but because our school is small and did not have all of the "bells and whistles" of larger districts, I wondered how prepared I would be.
Going into my Freshman year at Whitworth, one of my many fears was that I wasn't going to be smart enough for the academic side of college. After changing around my schedule a week before school started, I entered my first semester taking one more class than most other students.
Even with an overload, I always felt prepared in every fashion for the school work. Often, my neighbors would complain about how hard college was and how much studying they had to do, but for me it just felt like an extension of high school. Yes, there were other challenges of learning in an environment of peers that don't have all the same beliefs as you, but in terms of being prepared, SCS did a fantastic job!
SCS: Who was your favorite teacher at SCS/SCHS and why?
Alyssa: Whoa! This is a lot of pressure! There are so many good ones!
Two in particular come to mind. The first is Mr. DeGroot. It takes a special person to want to teach junior high students, and what an amazing person to step up to the plate! We got along so well being type-A, detail oriented, organized weirdos! He had intense structure to his classroom, yet still captivated our attention through hilarious stories and his various accents.
He was not only influential in my life as a teacher, but he was influential in my life as a bus driver. Living out in the country, we would have hour long bus rides before I was dropped off. I remember going to the front of the bus and hearing jokes, riddles, and having life chats.
In one of my Education classes at Whitworth, my professor asked us who the fourteenth president was, trying to make a point that no one remembers silly details like that from our younger years. I of course raised my hand after singing Mr. D's President song in my head. Thanks, Mr. D! So, although I hate to admit it, there was some use to memorizing that silly song! :)
Mr. D was an amazing teacher, but a lot of my respect for him has to do with the fact that he genuinely cared about me as a human being and not just about my learning.
The second teacher that comes to mind is Mr. Gorter. He was our high school math teacher. I don't think Math teachers get enough credit because of the dry nature of the material. (How do you make math fun?!) But, somehow, Mr. Gorter truly made an impact on me.
He would read us C.S. Lewis books in his homeroom class and we would discuss the different theological implications in the text. He was willing to share his perspective on faith and he very eloquently answered tough questions that were asked of him. Whenever I have to defend my beliefs here at Whitworth, I often think of the way Mr. Gorter would approach tough questions.
Mr. Gorter was a math teacher, but he was much more than that. He was truly invested in making us think deeper about what we believed, and furthering our walk with Christ. He was a great example of integrating faith into every aspect of your life. What a great role model to have going into a world that needs Christ's light!
SCS: What would you tell parents who are deciding whether to send their children to SCS?
Alyssa: Do it!!! It is worth the investment! One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the gift of attending a Christian School. I wouldn't trade one day at SCS for any other school. Not only is the material challenging, but the educational setting is irreplaceable. I got to learn in an environment surrounded by peers who felt like brothers and sisters, taught by teachers who not only wanted to further our education but also further our walks with the Lord, and nurtured by a community who had such love and support for everyone attending the school.
SCS: Why is a Christian education worth the investment?
Alyssa: I believe pushing yourself to gain knowledge of content is valuable, but what is even more important is knowing that that knowledge is not for our merit at all. We can do nothing apart from Christ. Therefore, I believe that learning in an environment that makes this point clear is essential.
My family stressed the idea of bearing "fruit that will last." Content from a third grade science class or a high school literature class may fade, but the idea of having Christ at our core for everything we do is the most valuable fruit that we could bear as Christ's ambassadors.
SCS: What’s next for you?
Alyssa: After graduating on May 22, 2016 with a degree in Business Management and an Accounting minor, I will be using these skills for Haak Farm Management LLC, joining our family business. And on July 9, I will marry my SCHS sweetheart, Dillon Struikmans!
SCS: Thank you, Alyssa. May God richly bless you as you follow His leading back to the Yakima Valley!
If you have an idea for an Outstanding Alumni, please email your suggestion to Laura Eisenga. Thank you!