Anneke Branderhorst '09

More about Anneke

  • Lives in: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Field: High school teacher
Calvin helped me develop my understanding of my calling in God's world. Calvin provided me the tools, the education, and the support as I worked towards this calling.”

In Spring 2013, Anneke (pictured here with Holocaust survivor Erwin Farkas) was honored with the "Courage to Teach" award through Tolerance Minnesota, a program focusing on Holocaust education and education against injustice. In the essay below, she reflects on her passion for social justice, and how her history degree from Calvin College helped her find her calling and pursue that vocation:

People. Story. Social Justice.  These three passions have shaped my calling in life, leading me to Calvin College to pursue a teaching career.  My name is Anneke Branderhorst and I graduated from Calvin College in 2009 with a History major, English minor, completing the secondary education program. I am currently in my fourth year teaching both social studies and language arts at a Christian high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I have always been passionate about story - both in literature and history alike. I was a book worm from a young age, enjoying the different worlds I could explore with the flip of a page. Similarly, I have always enjoyed learning about the past, about individual decisions and the impact of those decisions, and the empowerment to change the present and future from learning from history. My passion for social justice was first sparked when my third grade teacher combined literature and history in a way that would change my view on life forever.  I still remember when Mrs. Kikkert had our class read "Number the Stars", exposing me to the injustice of the Holocaust for the first time. I still remember when Mrs. Kikkert stayed with me, allowing me to cry as I learned about the details of the Holocaust for the first time. This experience not only ignited my passion for story and social justice; it also ignited my desire to someday be a teacher myself.

Fast forward a few years to my senior year of high school when I needed to decide where to go to college. After a few college visits and conversations, I decided that Calvin College was the best place for me, a place that would provide me the education, the tools, and support to turn my passions into practice. Calvin's History department explores the past through a Christian worldview, developing a richer understanding of the fall but also workings towards the solution. I appreciated the department's emphasis on Micah 6:8, actively pursuing justice, mercy, and humility through our education. I also appreciated that each and every professor emphasized that every story is worth considering, that every person has the power to do good, to be obedient.

Calvin helped me develop my understanding of my calling in God's world. Calvin provided me the tools, the education, and the support as I worked towards this calling. I am thankful for the many professors who encouraged me, who challenged me, who questioned me, and who prayed with me. I am thankful for Professor Schoone-Jongen  who continued to encourage me through student teaching, despite the many days I didn't think I was cut out for teaching.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to fulfill my calling, teaching language arts and social studies. I also teach a number of electives, including Holocaust Literature and Art. This course attempts to study the Holocaust through a variety of lenses, exploring story, art, music, photography, theatre, poetry, and  most importantly, real life testimonies from Holocaust survivors. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet these survivors and now call them my friends as we continue to write letters, to meet for coffee, and enjoy conversations over dinner.
This past month I was award the "Courage To Teach" award through Tolerance Minnesota, a program focusing on Holocaust education and overall education against injustice. I was flown to Washington, DC to explore the Holocaust Museum there and was able to participate in the Yom Hashoah event in Minneapolis with Holocaust survivors, remembering this horrible event in our history. As I think about my future, I hope to someday participate in the Yad Vashem's International Summer Seminar for Educators in Israel.

My passion for social justice was furthered by my experiences at Calvin College and has also been fueled by the hope voiced from survivors that I have met, survivors who have hope in the best of humanity despite experiencing humanity at its worst. My prayer is that my students will be inspired to shout out against injustice in any form.

Listen to an interview with Anneke about the award on Minnesota Public Radio.

Q&A

What kind of school are you teaching in now and what are you teaching?

I graduated from Calvin College in 2009 with a History major, English minor - through the Education program. To be honest, I was quite worried about finding a teaching job after graduating. Yet, thanks to the experience, skills, and support I gained at Calvin, I was blessed to find the perfect job. I am teaching at a small private school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, teaching Social Studies and Language Arts. This specific high school is an experiential type of school where student-led learning is promoted; the whole notion of "school" is different, and I am quite excited about this. More so, this school has a real connection to discernment, community, and a call for social justice - all traits I developed and learned to appreciate at Calvin. Through my many courses at Calvin, I have learned so much about History. I have learned not only about content but also about approach. I have learned to think critically about my role in history as a Christian, a woman, a Canadian, a North American, a child of God. I have learned to discern, to research, to evaluate, to compare, to initiate, to question, to wonder, to be amazed.

What did you learned about teaching from watching your Calvin History professors?

I have learned how to teach through watching my History professors. My History professors reignited my love for the past, my interest in the present, and my hope for the future. With their fine attention to detail, their interesting reading choices, their valuable questions, their difficult challenges for me, and their belief in each and every student, I grew as a student and as a teacher. One specific professor in the History department has shaped who I am, who I want to be, how I want to teach. I continuously rely on him for planning, content, and support.

How did your study at Calvin prepared you to teach History?

I have learned that teaching history is a true blessing, a great responsibility. I have learned that history must be studied and must be taught in a way that challenges the present to change the future. More so, my studies at Calvin also prepared me to teach History through curriculum support, lesson planning advice, honest conversations, intense debates, and tough challenges. Through understanding my theoretical allegiances, to discussing the current struggles of history teachers, I was able to grow as a teacher.

Any advice you would give students thinking of majoring in History, Secondary Ed?

Teaching history can be a daunting task, and there is much pressure placed on these teachers; yet, I felt equipped, prepared, and able to teach History. I doubted who I was as a historian and as a future teacher during my time at Calvin. However, through the support, struggle, prayer, tears, laughter, debate, discussion, reading, writing - I made it. I would not have made it without a wonderful History program that was honest, intentional, educated, intelligent, and God fearing. Looking back, I would not have had it any other way. I would encourage anyone to consider the History program at Calvin; it changed my life and the lives of my past, present, and future students. Maybe, it could change yours too.

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