Kawel and VanderBee receive Excellence in Teaching award


Ben Alter

Kawel, English teacher, and VanderBee, Math teacher, won a teaching award worth $1000.

Each year the EGR Schools Foundation grants the Excellence in Teaching Award to a couple worthy candidates nominated by students, faculty, and members of the community.

According to the EGRSF website, the aim of this award is to “recognize and encourage superior professional effort, to improve instruction and to cultivate the continuance of educational excellence in the East Grand Rapids Public Schools.”

The 2018 recipients included two high school teachers, Thomas Kawel, who teaches english, and Brian VanderBee, who teaches math.

Each teacher brings different and equally valuable skills and abilities to the classroom. As a math teacher, VanderBee’s strength lies in “explaining things well and offering a lot of help to the students,” as well as “enabling them to feel comfortable and confident in their abilities.” For Kawel as an English teacher, it lies in sparking a love for reading, literature, poetry, and the English language in his students.

Although the award’s monetary value is $1 thousand, to the awarded teachers it is symbolically worth far more than that.

“It’s a great honor to know that what you’re doing is appreciated and that it seems to be making a difference in the lives of students,” VanderBee said.

Kawel agreed, expressing that while he is thanked every day by his students, receiving official recognition for his work is very special and irreplaceable.

“It means a lot because teaching is my passion in life,” he said. “Getting that acknowledgement and having the faith of the community gives me a whole new vigor, a whole new ball of energy to run away with. It’s something that I will cherish forever.”

“The award is something that all of my colleagues in the building deserve,” he added. “I hope that one day they can be given such a great honor too.”