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News :: Vinton-Shellsburg School Board Candidate Profile: Kathy Van Steenhuyse
· 8:39am September 3rd, 2013
Editor's Note: Kathy Van Steenhuyse is one of three candidates running to fill the vacancy left by the recent resignation of Tim Bird from the Vinton-Shellsburg School Board.
We asked Kathy to share some information about herself and her experience, as well as her views on school issues.
Below, is her response:
Although I was born in Schenectady, NY, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and St. Louis, I have lived in Vinton for 38 years now, married to Frank Van Steenhuyse, so Vinton is definitely “home.” We have three children who graduated from Vinton-Shellsburg: Todd, ’95, (and his wife Jenn) are teachers for the Chicago Public Schools, with newborn twin boys named Liam and Jack; Kate, ’97, (and her husband Ryan) live in Wichita, KS, where she is on the part time graduate faculty for Wichita State University and is a professional artist, and Ryan is a marketing director for a national company. They are parents of Max, 2 ½, and Dodge, six months. Mark, ’99, (and his wife, Abby) live in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is a massage therapist, and she is a professional violinist and Alexander treatment trainer, a kind of therapy for musicians. They are the doting owners of Baxter, a 22-pound black cat, and “Bill Cowher,” a white, 14-pound bichon frise. All three children say, now living elsewhere, that Vinton, Iowa, was a great place to grow up.
Clarke College in Dubuque first drew me to Iowa. Then I attended Georgetown University in Washington DC for my MA in History, and later, UNI for secondary teacher certification. Meeting and marrying Frank Van Steenhuyse brought me back to Iowa. In our marriage, we have always taken turns with our careers, supporting each other to reach our own dreams. So my experience is interlaced with his career, too.
I believe that I (and most other folks) learn best by doing, so while Frank served in the US Army at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, I “created” a job for myself as a substitute teacher for six different school districts in a 30-mile radius of the fort, and had the chance to experience Kindergarten-12th grade in disciplines as diverse as drafting, Latin and biology, including special education. I learned about which levels and subjects I preferred to teach, and how many ways there are to run a school district.
After we moved back to Iowa to raise our family, Frank became a partner, then owner of D & V
Sidewinder Sales, a minimum tillage farm implement business that he later expanded into a NAPA Auto
Parts store. Helping him, I picked up some small business perspective doing accounting and payroll. I also did several seasons of income tax preparation, which I really enjoyed. Frank sold that business in 1993, and went off to follow his new dream (our kids thought it was great that someone “so old” would go back to school) to Chicago to Worsham College of Mortuary Science, which gave me a taste of what it must be like to be a single parent of three teens while working full time out of town, until he became a funeral director in 1994. Then it was my turn again.
After our children were all in school, I taught part time for Clarke College while attending UNI, and then taught full time for Waterloo East High School, becoming the Department Chair for Social Studies. I was recruited to help design and open the new experimental school, Bunger School of Technology, an awesome adventure for any teacher. I had started my tenth year in Waterloo, when I was offered the opportunity at Kirkwood Community College to become Dean of Social Sciences and Career Option Programs (which are transfer programs: teacher education preparation; early childhood education; criminal justice; human services; disabilities services, including paraeducator certification; paralegal studies; communications/media arts/PR; and sign language interpreter training). My areas of supervision also included the Kirkwood Kids Child Care Center, the student newspaper and Kirkwood Student Productions, the student-run broadcast media. Occasionally, I taught classes at Kirkwood: Tools for College Success, College 101, and Topics in Education: Human Relations. Most recently, I supervised student teachers for Mt. Mercy University, and team taught their Educational Leadership seminar. What I loved the most about all of these jobs was that I was constantly learning from all the talented and dedicated people around me and that every day presented a new challenge.
I also believe that we learn by serving, so I volunteered as often as I could, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and for 18 years, on the Vinton Public Library Board of Trustees, sticking with it until we met our goals of providing handicapped accessibility, renovating the original Carnegie building, and building a new addition. (Libraries are still high on my list of critically important public institutions.) Later, I had the chance to serve on the Happy Time Board of Trustees for five years, have been a member of Vinton Unlimited since it was formed, of T. T. T. and the Vinton Women’s Club, chaired the Vinton-Shellsburg Reconsideration Committee, and have helped out with IBSSS’ SOS and Visioning groups, and with Vinton-Shellsburg bond issues and PPEL renewals. In 2010, I began serving on the Eastern Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) Board and the Housing Trust Fund, representing Benton County.
These experiences have given me a parent’s, a teacher’s, a small business owner’s, an administrator’s, and a citizen-volunteer’s perspectives. I believe that all of these perspectives are important in making good decisions for our school district. When I met with our Superintendent, Mary Jo Hainstock, I asked what the big initiatives would be in the next few years. She indicated that increasing student achievement would be paramount. That matches up with my passion for creating opportunities for every student to do his or her very best, in whatever areas that might be.
Several changes at the state level, including a new Director of the Iowa Department of Education, will impact the direction we take on student achievement. Federal effects of No Child Left Behind legislation, mandates for special education, alternative schools, home schooling, and gifted education, and Iowa legislative efforts like changing the Supplementary State Aid formula (formerly known as Allowable Growth) will impact funding and our ability to deliver quality programming and services. We cannot always anticipate what those impacts will be much before they occur.
But here is what we can do: we can work with parents, with all school district employees and ALL of the citizens in ALL of our communities to be an inclusive, welcoming district, to prevent bullying and to partner with other districts and our Grant Wood AEA, with both community colleges and four-year institutions, and with agencies, businesses and industries. By partnering, we can use our collective talents and resources to create opportunities and smooth transitions for our students. I believe firmly that providing access to a first class education is the responsibility that we have to future generations. Students must then work hard to get the most from the opportunities we provide. What is also the best economic development investment we can make? Clearly, it is for our communities to work together--create, expand and sustain excellence in education for the 21st century --to make these educational opportunities happen.
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