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Karen VanderLeest knows about education.

Most recently serving as a clinical supervisor at Ramapo College, where she observed student teachers, VanderLeest’s career also includes 18 years in public education. During that time, she taught middle school and high school classes, as well as supervised the Social Studies and World Language departments. 

In addition to her work experience, VanderLeest holds a master’s from Columbia Teachers College and received principal and supervisor certification through the NJPSA Foundation for Education Administration.

“What I love about education,” shares VanderLeest, “is the opportunity to speak into student’s lives and to help form their understanding of the world. A teacher who is a positive adult in their lives can literally change their trajectory.”

In addition to her love for education, it is also clear that VanderLeest loves Eastern Christian School. An EC alumna and EC mom to an incoming fifth grader, VanderLeest, married to husband Keith, has just completed her first year as a board member. 

“EC has a strong legacy of Christian education that also provides academic excellence and a well-rounded community. I love all of those things—a strong Christian foundation, a strong academic program, and then you have this beautiful community. One of the exciting things for me is that rich, foundational history combined with the growing diversity of denominations, backgrounds and cultures, all working together to raise up our kids in the faith,” she shares.

As a board member, she believes she can offer “a unique systems perspective. When I think of academic excellence, it’s preschool through graduation: how do programs build on one another, complement one another. How do we make sure we are staying informed about what student’s needs are as the world continues to change and our students continue to change?” In particular, VanderLeest has been encouraged by EC’s implementation of Responsive Classroom technique, as well as an increase of student support services. 

VanderLeest is encouraged by the dedication and intentionality of the board “as a whole and as individuals who are working to maintain the mission and vision of the school.” As she considers the future, she also reflects back with gratefulness on the role the school has played in her life. 

“The consistency and steadiness that EC provided in my life was an anchor for my faith. As I became an adult, the formation of my Christian worldview became a part of the fabric of who I was. I also am grateful for the long-lasting community that resulted from attending EC. Now, it’s really exciting to engage in this community as a board member.”

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