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2000’s Valedictorians Reflect

As part of our 60th anniversary celebrations during the 2022-23 we are sharing stories from valedictorians across the years.  In this blog post you’ll hear from some of the valedictorians during the 2000’s!

Emily (Weening) Puklicz (05)

We have all been at the same place at various times. Our complex stories are weaved so intricately by our all-sustaining God. He saves and he sanctifies. Like yours, mine is a story of growth. From 2001-05, I travelled to TDChristian from the Holland Marsh as Emily Weening, a diligent student who thrived in community and antcipated a long-dreamed future in teaching.

I worked on the yearbook, soaked up Peer Counselling training, played volleyball, was overachiever in courses, flourished in Writer’s Craft, and took part in the first Integrated Block class.

But, I remember the people most from my TDChristian years. I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with a wide variety of people. From classmates to staff, faces that filled our small school were known and available. Mr. Groot was particularly influential, from four years in homeroom to classroom teacher, he recognized my abilities and pitfalls. Once, he kindly yet firmly reminded me I would give myself an ulcer if I tried maintaining my high stress levels. The impact of this comment has abounded.

I originally entered Redeemer University College’s Education program, but I left with a Psychology Degree. People still mattered most to me. I got married, moved to small town New Hamburg, and became a mother to five children. I can see how pieces of my past at TDChristian have led me to my current season in life. My life today could be deemed far more worthy of stress than it was in grade 12, but God has used motherhood as a means of obliterating my false perception of control and merit-based living.

I now spend the majority of my time as a homeschool mom, teaching and training our children ages 4-11. I’m a life-long learner as God continues to teach me to trust him, humbly submit to his will, give him my overwhelm, and receive his abundant grace. I’m thankful for God’s kind, infinite love on this blessed journey of living for his glory.

Matthew Sjaarda (09)

After graduating TD in 2009 I headed to Waterloo to pursue an engineering degree. Five years later I married Jenny (also ’09!) on a beautiful August day, and we moved to Hamilton to be near McMaster University, where Jenny would earn her PhD. While in Hamilton, we were blessed with a community of friends centered around our church (Hughson St. Baptist), and our faith was stretched there through ministries serving the indigent North-End neighborhoods. The years in Waterloo and Hamilton were peppered with visits to TD to see old teachers, play sports in the gym (including the Alumni Volleyball tourney), check-out the latest building addition, and to pay workplace visits to my mother and brother!

Jenny and I wrapped up our schoolwork in 2018 and fortuitously (ergo, by the grace of God) found postdoc positions at twin Universities in Lausanne, Switzerland, where we have lived and worked since January 2019. Jenny works in the field of genetic epidemiology, and I study highway bridges. We were graciously received by a strong church community, which Christian hospitality made all the difference in a country where neither of us had met a single person. It also provided us with co-adventurers to explore the rich mountain landscapes! We welcomed our first child, Avery, in September of 2020, and our second, Carson, in May 2022. We moved back to Hamilton last August and are readjusting to life here, again.

Without a doubt, the most important impact that TD has had on my life is the fact that I met Jenny there. Thankfully she wasn’t scared away from TD, or Sjaardas, when she arrived on her first day of Grade 9 and found her locker beneath that of my brother Joel, at that time the largest Grade 12er in the school.