VanderSchee recognized by UChicago for creating positive, safe environment for students

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Tracy Tran

Coppell High School IB math and AP calculus BC teacher Ian VanderSchee teaches during second period on Monday in B121. VanderSchee was nominated for the Outstanding Educator Award by CHS 2019 graduate Dwija Dammanna.

Torie Peck, Staff Writer

Each year the University of Chicago, one of the most prestigious universities of 2020, encourages incoming freshmen to nominate a teacher who impacted their lives for the Outstanding Educator Award. This award recognizes teachers who made an impact on their  students’ lives. 

UChicago freshman and 2019 Coppell High School graduate Dwija Dammanna nominated her former teacher, CHS IB mathematics and AP calculus BC teacher Ian VanderSchee, for this award. VanderSchee received the award on Oct. 21.

Coppell High School IB math and AP calculus BC teacher Ian VanderSchee teaches CHS seniors Austin Gregory and Nathan Crawford during second period on Monday in B121. VanderSchee was nominated for the Outstanding Educator Award by CHS 2019 graduate Dwija Dammanna. (Tracy Tran)

Dammanna was in VanderSchee’s class her senior year, where he helped her transition into college.

“[VanderSchee] is a great teacher, and not just in the conventional way.” Dammanna said. “He really connects with his students and makes an effort to help us with school and other things. This makes him an outstanding educator because he’s not just there for knowledge, but also to see you as a person.”

VanderSchee emphasizes creating a personal relationship with each of his students. At the beginning of the school year, he approaches a class by starting slow as he understands that every student has had a different preferred learning method. 

“When I have a class for the first time, I approach them with a clean slate and no judgment,” VanderSchee said. “Students are not all responsible for the circumstances that they have gone through with learning math up until the point where they’ve gotten to my class, so there’s a lot of grace and a lot of getting to know where each student is.”

Since his students learn at different paces, VanderSchee makes it a point to know how each student is doing in his class. He works with his students to broaden their understanding, as well as offering before and after school tutorials.

“It troubles me personally when somebody doesn’t understand something that I am trying to teach,” VanderSchee said. “I take it as my personal responsibility to make sure that [my students] understand everything that I am talking about.” 

It troubles me personally when somebody doesn’t understand something that I am trying to teach. I take it as my personal responsibility to make sure that [my students] understand everything that I am talking about.”

— Ian VanderSchee

Both current and former students have recognized VanderSchee’s class as a safe place to talk about worries and to ask for advice.

Despite most learning currently being virtual, VanderSchee has found ways to connect with his students and build relationships.

“Especially in virtual learning, a lot of these classes can be kind of awkward especially if no one talks, but [VanderSchee] creates an environment that’s super chill and open,” CHS IB senior Anushri Saxena said. “He’s an overwhelmingly positive person. He ends every class by saying how much we mean to him and how happy he was to see us. It’s always a class that you really want to go to.”

VanderSchee thanks all of his colleagues, students and administrators that have helped him become the teacher he is today.

“I am very, very humbled and honored to be recognized in this way,” VanderSchee said. “Especially since it’s been two years since [Dammanna] has been in my classroom, for her to remember all of that and for her to take the time to nominate me for the award, that just feels really special. I have trouble thinking of a time when I’ve ever felt so honored.”

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