Teacher-coach simply wanted to come back to the West

Jeremy Van Dam prepares to head out with the on-site shuttle at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo in Grandview.

Photo by Ted Escobar
Jeremy Van Dam prepares to head out with the on-site shuttle at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo in Grandview.

Jeremy Van Dam’s parents took him out of the West when he was 10 years old, but they didn’t take the West out of him.

After earning a Bachelor’s degree from Dordt College in Iowa and a Master’s from Iowa State, Van Dam took a job with Sunnyside Christian High School… mostly so he could come back to the West.

After three years on the job, he is elated with his decision. He likes the Yakima Valley and the state because of the outdoors opportunities.

He’s climbed Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Defiance in Oregon and Mt. Adams twice.

“I plan to climb Mt. Rainier, but I have to go with a guide,” he said.

The unmarried and fancy-free young Van Dam is not all about him, however.

Last week, he was a volunteer shuttle driver at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo in Grandview, helping people from the Lower Valley navigate the fairgrounds.

Van Dam’s father was a dairyman. So, he spent his first 10 years on a Western Oregon dairy.

Then, the family moved to a dairy in Orange City, Iowa, where Van Dam graduated from Unity Christian High School.

He went on to Dordt for a degree in mechanical engineering.

He was studying for a Master’s in the same field at Iowa State when it dawned on him he’d never asked himself why he wanted to be a mechanical engineer.

“There’s all kinds of ways to make money, if that’s what you’re looking for,” he said.

Van Dam took an inventory of his own needs.

The No. 1 priority was a place where he could grow his faith (Christian Reformed Church). Sunnyside Christian could facilitate that.

Van Dam couldn’t think of a good reason. He certainly was not enjoying the 12-hour days he was putting in studying and working on projects. Around that time, he spent some time with youngsters in a group setting and liked it.

He started to look for something that would pay him for having that pleasure.

“I wanted to move west,” Van Dam said. “I applied for a job in Salt Lake City, I applied up here, and I got a job here.”

Actually, it was the school in Utah that encouraged Van Dam to apply in Sunnyside. Administrators in Utah knew Sunnyside Christian needed a math teacher.

After phone interviews, he landed the high school math teaching position. He teaches Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-calculus and consumer math. He said consumer math is the most applicable in life.

Van Dam is also an assistant football coach. The team has been to state all three of his years.

He smiles sheepishly, but he doesn’t take the credit. That belongs to others.

He’s just happy Sunnyside Christian has given him the opportunity to live out West.


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