Woodland Christian High School teacher, coach and athletic
director Ken VanderZwaag holds the Pete Beach Award he received
from friends/coworkers and Central Western Ontario Secondary
Schools Association representatives Carolyn Chesney and Pat
Christian school community is
where ‘God wants me to
be,’ Ken VanderZwaag says
OFSAS honours Woodland Christian’s
long-time teacher and coach
Their lengthy standing
ovation was a moving moment for Woodland
Christian High School's Ken VanderZwaag, warming the spotlight that he usually shuns.
It was the students’ way to honour him for the award
of excellence he’d just received, as well as 30 years
of instilling life-enriching qualities as a teacher and coach
at the Breslau school.
“I think it’s the place that God wants me to be,” VanderZwaag
says of Woodland and the larger Christian education community,
which he first joined as a young boy in Grade 1.
VanderZwaag prays he’ll return to Woodland Christian,
after taking a leave last year to battle pancreatic cancer.
He is the school’s longest-serving teacher, instructing
in everything from physical education to geography. As a coach
and athletic director, he’s guided the school to three
Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA)
bronze medals as well as a number of sportsmanship banners.
All the while, he’s worked quietly to help others reach
their potential — in sports and in life.
“He’s been faithful, committed, loyal, and he’s
always interested in seeing this school succeed and kids succeed,” says
John Van Pelt, Woodland’s principal and a former student
He says VanderZwaag embodies OFSAA’s Pete Beach Award,
which he was surprised with at the school’s June 13 awards
Named for a former OFSAA executive director, the annual award
honours an educator who utilizes the medium of school sports
to positively influence students in the remainder of their
lives. The individual, according to the certificate of recognition, “best
typifies the true function of the teacher coach — a source
of discipline, a mentor and a friend.”
“That’s exactly who he has been over his 30 years
here,” Van Pelt says. “Ken has had high expectations
for students . . . but the highest priority for him has
been the integrity, character and sportsmanship kids demonstrate
when they play the game.
“For him, that is winning.”
Reflecting on his former basketball, badminton and soccer coach,
Van Pelt always appreciated VanderZwaag’s push for players
to excel and become excellent. He emphasized that everyone
was important to the team and their contribution valuable.
“In every sport there are super stars, and they often
can take care of themselves. Ken recognized there are people
who play different roles on teams and he was able to bring
out the best in them and help them to understand that that
role was significant and worthwhile.”
Current Woodland athletic director Jamie Wright marvels at
VanderZwaag’s organizational skills and willingness to
put in the extra effort to get things done.
He also marvels at VanderZwaag’s long-term dedication
on many different levels — within the school, to his
classes and the countless teams he’s coached, and within
the sports-governing bodies of District 8, the Central Western
Ontario Secondary Schools Association (CWOSSA) and OFSAA.
During the award presentation, it was noted that VanderZwaag
has given smaller schools a voice and support as a long-time
representative on the CWOSSA and OFSAA boards.
“I guess I was keeping my eye out for the little guy,” he
The Pete Beach Award was a surprise to VanderZwaag; he’d
been invited to the assembly to give out an award when CWOSSA
representatives honoured him.
The event brought him back to the school where, for more than
29 years, he’d never missed a day of work. He misses
the classroom and the joy of working with kids.
“It’s been a tough year not being at school but
my prayer is that I get to go back some day,” VanderZwaag
He is grateful for all the support he’s received, including
former students, and for his rewarding career and long, uninterrupted
tenure at Woodland Christian.
“For somebody to be able to go through a career that
long without being sick, God was keeping an eye out for me,” he
says — and he feels God still is.
If you have a story to share or feedback on this article, please
contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 25, or e-mail lisa(at)axiomnews.ca.
The OACS News Service is independently written and produced. The stories are researched, written and posted
News Service without prior editorial approval from either
OACS or their members.
Stories may be reprinted in their entirety with permission
and when appropriately credited. Please contact Axiom News
at 1-800-294-0051 for more information.