Chris Vanderwall Receives Award of Excellence

Nicole Jones, Staff Writer

  Band director Chris Vanderwall is one of 44 teachers who received the Award of Excellence for District 202. This award has been given out once every year ever since 1993 to acknowledge staff who make a strong impact. 

  “I think he’s an excellent director. He’s tough and knows when to joke and when to mean business,” band student Kaelyn Witt, junior, said. 

  For a band teacher, this year was a big year to win the award of excellence with the restrictions of Covid-19, forcing many teachers to get creative with teaching styles so suddenly. A handful of teachers, including Vaderwall, had more difficulties than others because of the subject’s necessity to be hands-on and in groups. 

  “Given the year that everyone has had, the idea of nominating someone else for an award is really outside the realm of most people’s process for right now,” Vanderwall said. 

  Ciara Smith, Vanderwall’s past student teacher for his band class and a current part of the marching band staff, was the nominator that led to Vanderall winning the award. For the few years Smith and Vanderwall taught together, Smith noticed Vanderwall’s teaching style and the ways he cared for his students’ well-being and progress in the class. 

  “I’ve seen the leadership that he helps promote through the students, the different opportunities that he gives the students, and overall, just the way he runs the program in a way where all the students feel really safe and are able to be creative, Smith said. 

  In Vanderwall’s first year teaching band, he led the students to a first-place victory at Illinois Western University. Vanderwall makes it a point to keep in mind every student’s mental and physical stress from school and he puts students into groups while working to help students feel confident and keep students from feeling stressed on their own. Even after Covid-19 came into the picture, Vanderwall continued to do his best and kept all these points in mind. 

  “It’s great to have a teacher who also understands the stress kids go through outside of band,” band student Lucas Forebear, junior, said.