Longtime educational administrative aide retires

Krystle Wagner • Jul 1, 2017 at 12:00 PM

After more than 35 years in the education field, Tina VanderWall is embarking on a new chapter — retirement.

For the past six years, VanderWall served as the executive administrative assistant to two Grand Haven Area Public Schools superintendents.

She previously worked for Fruitport Community Schools for 29 years — she served as the Fruitport Middle School secretary, secretary to the special-education director, administrative assistant to the assistant superintendent and administrative assistant for three Fruitport superintendents.

A life-long West Michigan resident, Vanderwall graduated from Fruitport High School. In 1983, she received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University.

In 1984, she got married and moved to Grand Haven, where she raised her three children who graduated from Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

VanderWall’s career with Fruitport schools started during her high school junior and senior years, when she worked in the office as a co-op student, and during the summer months during college. After college, she worked part-time for Fruitport schools, and then a full-time job became available.

“From being a proud Fruitport graduate through to being the superintendent's administrative assistant, Tina has been a passionate Trojan,” said Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak. “I know every board member and administrator Tina worked with saw her as the glue that held the district together and moving in a positive direction.”

Szymoniak said VanderWall is a special person who became the face and voice of the district through her “unwavering professionalism and unquestionable dedication.” Szymoniak said VanderWall is missed in Fruitport and he’s sure she will be missed in Grand Haven.

“I wish her much happiness in the years to come,” he said.

Throughout her career, VanderWall said she has enjoyed serving on various committees — bond campaigns, facilities studies, strategic planning, cooperative advertising, community relations and the Fruitport Education Foundation, to name a few.

A few things stand out to VanderWall from her years in the education field.

“Educating our youth really does take a village, and I am amazed by the connectivity with our community,” she said. “Parents, community members and area businesses are very supportive and willing to lend a hand for our buildings and programs. Our students reciprocate with involvement and activities to better our community.”

VanderWall said there are also opportunities that are “amazing and will help” students “be successful beyond graduation,” support for students who struggle, and innovative classes and programs such as the Lakeshore Youth Leadership program, iCreate 360, Pay It Forward, F.I.R.S.T. Robotics, Science Olympiad and the new manufacturing curriculum partnership.

Grand Haven Superintendent Andy Ingall said the district congratulates VanderWall and wishes her well in retirement.

“Tina has been a tremendous asset to the office of the superintendent and Board of Education, and our whole Education Service Center team,” Ingall said.

Looking ahead, VanderWall and her husband plan to take a few vacations this fall and winter. In the meantime, VanderWall said she’s most looking forward to being a tourist in her hometown, spending time at the beach and on the boardwalk, and at the Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings.

VanderWall currently serves as a church elder and plans to continue serving as a Fruitport Education Foundation board member. She also hopes to volunteer with the Grand Haven school district.

VanderWall says she feels blessed to have worked alongside compassionate and caring people in Fruitport and Grand Haven schools. She says she will miss the people she’s worked with throughout her career.

“Many great friendships have been made along the way, and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of both great districts,” she said.

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