Dr. Julie van Wijk wants to create a lively hub of teaching and learning within Lynden Schools. As the new director of teaching and learning for the district, her goal is to craft the best possible learning experience for the students in the community.
“Working with all the district’s stakeholders, we want to bring all that collaborative energy together and that knowledge together so that we can then turn around and put that out there for our students in a really awesome way,” she says. “That is what I think my job is, pedagogy, curriculum, support for principals. Whatever is going to provide awesome experiences for our students. It’s a big job.”
After spending 14 years as a teacher and administrator in the south Puget Sound area, van Wijk moved to Whatcom County two years ago to serve as the principal at Bellingham’s Cordata Elementary School. With her husband a native of the Netherlands and her a native Texan, “when we were moving to Whatcom County, we knew we wanted to be in Lynden,” she says. “It reminds me of that really traditional American feel and the farming communities of Texas, and the Dutch influence is amazing for him.”
“We love Lynden,” van Wijk says. “My husband is deaf, and community is really important to him and we feel we are part of a community here. I was really excited when this job opportunity came available. Working here until I retire is a dream.”
Working with administrators and teachers to focus on collaboration offers a key role of van Wijk, creating synergy from the difference perspectives, ideas and skillsets in order to ensure Lynden students have the best possible outcomes. Doing that in Lynden has already been special, ever since she started the new position on July 1, replacing Elizabeth Hamming, who left the district. “I love what the community values in Lynden,” van Wijk says. “I think it being a farming community and close-knit community where neighbors and people care about each other and are gracious and kind, I find that a lot in Lynden and really love that.”
Digging into the work has started with a focus on upcoming August professional development for teachers. Working with Kelly Hoekstra in the teaching and learning office, the two have concentrated on professional development that helps teachers return to a school setting where students come in-person for five days each week. The office is also heavily involved in curriculum adoption in all subject areas K-12, ensuring there is a plan for every subject area while leveraging the collaborative practices.
But part of what van Wijk remains focused on is simply getting to know everyone. “I’m really excited to be here and I can’t wait to meet everybody,” she says. “I want the teaching and learning space to be a welcoming and collaborative environment.” The office, located in the district office at the Main Street campus, will soon include open space to allow groups of teachers to work together and share ideas. And when new curriculum becomes available, van Wijk plans to showcase it in the office, allowing families, parents, teachers and staff to drop in. She also hopes to have an open house to show off the fresh space.
“We want this to be the hub for teaching and learning for our district,” van Wijk says. “When people walk in, they know what we are about and feel welcomed here.”