A tie that binds

Published 5:10 pm Sunday, September 19, 2010

Special to the Daily News

To say that Terra Ceia Christian School has seen a lot of changes would be an understatement.
One interesting phenomenon in the institution’s history has been the people who have been drawn to the area to teach at the school.
The past 73 years have seen 157 teachers serve at the school. Many of those teachers came from private Christian liberal-arts colleges.
One of the aforementioned institutions is Dordt College. The college, located in Sioux Center, Iowa, and has about 1,300 hundred students. It strives to promote the same Christian perspective as Terra Ceia Christian School.
Dick Van Dorp came to the Terra Ceia area in the 1930s. He observed the different people coming to the area.
“The teachers back then all came from New Jersey, Michigan or Iowa, or some place like that. They would stay a few years and then go on to something else. They seemed to be coming for the experience or to find a husband,” he said.
Holly Van Staalduinen came to Terra Ceia in May 1964. She had been teaching in Rodlands, Calif., for three years. She was Terra Ceia’s first female principal, and she taught students in the fifth through eighth grades.
Van Staalduinen had never heard of the area before she came to it.
“I didn’t know a thing about North Carolina. Everyone takes United States geography, but I didn’t know a thing about the geography of North Carolina.” she said
Van Staalduinen attended Dordt College, in its opening years.
Van Staalduinen explained that the primary purpose of the college then was to train Christian school teachers.
“The first year I was there, the student body was 91. Out of those, 75 were girls in teacher training. The second year the enrollment went up, but it was mostly girls,” she said.
Van Staalduinen estimated that attending the college then for two years cost from $2,000 to $3,000. These days, getting a degree there costs about $40,000.
A history of Terra Ceia is included in two books authored by Hank Van Staalduinen, a former resident of the area.
One interesting anecdote from 1972 also concerns Dordt College.
Bill De Jager, a resident of Canada, had signed a contract to teach at Terra Ceia, but he was unable to secure a work permit from the U.S. government. Congressman Walter B. Jones Sr. was contacted by the school board and asked to help with the situation. The effort was successful, and in August 1972 the board received assurance from Jones’ office that the required permit would be issued to De Jager.
Through the 1970s and the 1980s, the school continued to grow and change. Some significant events included construction of a new auditorium and gymnasium. Other milestones included obtaining the Beta Club’s charter and the school participating in the N.C. State Accreditation Program.
Sarah Bollock taught at Terra Ceia Christian School from 1996 to 1999. Bollock earned a teaching degree from Dordt College. She described the Terra Ceia area as a good place to begin a career and adult life.
One thing that Bollock remembered from her time in the area was the community life.
“I was at Terra Ceia for the final years of the Dutch Festival, when people came from miles around to learn more about the area’s Dutch heritage. Bus rides were given to the Van Staalduinen tulip fields. There were special crafts, food and clothing.”
Bollock also coached junior varsity girls’ basketball while she was at Terra Ceia Christian School. In 1999, her team won the conference tournament on with game-winning basket.
Bollock sent an e-mail to her parents after the game, describing what happened.
“It said ‘Terra Ceia Strikes Gold in Tournament.’ I wish I still had it!” she said.
Bollock eventually moved to Lafayette, Ind., where she taught fourth grade at a Christian school for eight years. But she remembers her stay in North Carolina as a formidable time in her life.
“I lived with a fellow teacher who had an adventurous spirit. We enjoyed every moment by trying to take in all the sights of the region. Anytime we were able, we took off on excursions to visit all of North Carolina’s lighthouses, many historic sites, state parks and plantation homes,” she said.
These days, Terra Ceia Christian School is facing the challenge of a smaller staff and shrinking student enrollment. It also is having to prepare students for the challenges of a changing global economy.
Laura Chrismon teaches the third- and fourth-grades at the school. She received a teaching degree from Dordt College in 2006, coming to teach at the school in the 2006-2007 school year.
Chrismon elaborated on the effect of the economic recession on the school.
“The economy has definitely had an affect on our enrollment, and the school has to work hard to meet its budget. On the positive side, our school community has really had to pull together and depend on God to provide for our needs,” she said.
Chrismon said that Dordt College helped her prepare for the classroom by consistently providing her hands-on experience throughout her college years.
Chrismon, a resident of Bath, came from a large city in Iowa.
She said coming to eastern North Carolina was a change of pace.
“It was definitely a lot busier and more fast-paced where I lived. Here, it is a lot more quiet and laid back. But I can definitely say that I have learned to love this area and call it my home,” she said.