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Starting in the Sixties

As part of our 60th anniversary celebrations during the 2022-23 we share stories from valedictorians across the years.  In this blog post you’ll hear from some of the valedictorians from the founding decade of the school!  

Annita (Heidinga) Maat 1967 

I started Grade 9 in the Albion Road Church basement and, while those beginning years were instructive and fun, I cannot think of TDCH without being thankful for Mr. Bert Witvoet who taught Grade 12 English and Bible and who had a significant influence in forming who I was to become. 

These were the beginning of the hippie years. I remember reading about a Professor Timothy Leary who claimed that those who took LSD would be elevated to a higher plain of consciousness where notes of music would visually appear in a colourful spectrum of intricate beauty. I was intrigued but rather than investigate firsthand, I openly queried our trusted teacher, Mr. Witvoet, who wisely spoke truth to all of us. 

We were the class who read Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and studying that book from a Christian perspective deepened my faith. Mr. Witvoet also taught Bible; the first lesson answering the question: “What is the Meaning of Life?” Bert led us to understand that it was our task to spiritually discern culture and, from a biblical viewpoint with Holy Spirit’s power, work out our salvation in every area of life—fearlessly, and with joy. We were never to settle into complacency, indulgent self-centeredness or helpless despair. As Christians, we were called to reflect visible LIGHT into all areas of culture. We were to become the best we could at whatever we undertook and to share the life-giving love of Jesus wherever we went. 

In the ensuing 55 years, I have travelled to Hong Kong, China, Argentina, through the Mid-East, Europe, Australia, Alaska and many North American cities with my husband, Derk, who runs an environmental engineering and technology company with our sons, and with whom I give leadership in Transformation Canada. (I myself became a Christian teacher.) We have, singly or together, participated in or led CRC church councils, taught catechism, led Christian organizations and the establishment of an excellent affordable housing development in London, On. 

I am an intercessor. Early on, I learned to hear my Saviour’s voice and seek Holy Spirit’s help to work out God’s will in my life. For 10 years, I prayed for Mississauga as part of a weekly interdenominational group. Later, I led nationally-focused intercession for a dozen years. I have been part of many prayer groups and events. Presently, I lead employee prayer in our business. I also lead national intercessors, virtually and otherwise, on behalf of Christian politician Dr. Leslyn Lewis who is seeking leadership of the Conservative Party and whose campaign chair is my husband. I am a member of a global apostolic leadership team. 

As a teenager, it distressed me when Bert Witvoet and the staff were terminated but, as an activist, I myself experienced expulsion from the institutional church. (At the urging of the Lord, we did return after 10-15 years to reconcile and try to share some of what we had learned while fellowshipping with inter-denominational Christians.) 

During those years, our family lived in intentional Christian community which welcomed hurting people whom the Lord sent our way. Working with a Salem Christian Counsellor, we saw alcoholics freed, marriages renewed, a runaway return, abortion prevented, people led to the Lord, physical and mental ailments healed and hope and joy released. We ourselves, in this sacrificial lifestyle, grew stronger. As (Romans 8:19) children of the living God, we sought to open the way for a groaning creation to find the freedom available in Jesus Christ. 

I am a writer, compiling stories during the busy times of my life. One of these days, I may yet publish. 

I am blessed to be the joyful mother and grandmother of happily married offspring and their interesting children. We are 17 altogether. We love the Lord and each other. Several times a year we converge to celebrate family. An annual highlight is camping together for one week. 

I remember a prayer my Dad spoke from his heart about a year before his death. “Oh, Lord,” he prayed, “in my life, you have been so good to me. If I can go anywhere or do anything to help anyone for you, just let me know and I will do it.” That’s how I feel too. A big part of that heart-desire comes from the seed planted long ago in TDCH (particularly through Bert Witvoet) and watered by other amazing mentors providentially supplied on my journey. Looking forward, I thank God for the delight of living as His daughter in this wonderful creation. 

Edward Koke, 1968 

In September of 1964 I started grade 9 at TDCH. Classes were held in the basement of the Christian Reformed Church on Albion Rd. Despite the limited facilities we did not feel that we were missing out. The parking lot was large enough to permit baseball and touch football games and during the winter months we played early morning shinny on the adjacent Humber River. 

There was an air of excitement which pervaded our school the following year when classes were moved to our new building in Woodbridge. We were proud of our new school building. In our own adolescent way, we also realized that we were participating in the fulfillment of a generational vision. 

My fondest memory of my four years at TDCH is the camaraderie and sense of common purpose which existed among teachers and students. I can recall that when the students were invited to harvest carrots from a field in the Holland Marsh as a fundraiser for the school, our teachers joined us in the muck on that cold November morning and helped us fill those bushels with carrots. By late afternoon that field had been picked clean. 

Interestingly, in the absence of a strict authoritarian relationship between teachers and students the need for discipline was rare. 

I have been blessed in my life following my graduation from TDCH in 1968. Today I am a married father of 5 and a grandfather of 10. I live in Parry Sound, Ontario where I am completing my 14th year as a Superior Court Judge. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful area of this province and my wife Anita and I spend as much time outdoors as possible. We attend the local Presbyterian church. 

High school years occur during a formative and impressionable time in the life of students. We are little more than children when we enter grade 9, and in the next four years we transition to adolescence and then to the brink of adulthood. Clearly, the influence of these four years is significant. So…as I reflect on my time at TDCH, I ask myself how these years have impacted my life? 

I have retained my faith and I continue to believe that as a Christian I am called to look at the world through a different lens. Quite clearly, this part of who I am was nurtured and strengthened at TDCH. In looking back however, I realize that the most significant way in which my four years at TDCH has influenced who I am today resulted from the way the staff interacted with their students. Our beloved principal, Aukje Masselink, set the tone for the student and staff relationship in those early years. She made each one of us feel special and valued. Throughout my time at TDCH the consistent message that came through to us from our teachers and administrators was that they respected us and genuinely liked us. Upon graduation, it was their belief in us which helped to instill in me a desire to do well and to pursue my post high school goals and dreams with confidence. 

My hope and prayer is that TDCH will continue to benefit future generations the way it benefited the class of 68. 

Ron Rupke (1969) 

As the valedictorian for the TDCH class of 1969, I remember beginning in 1965 as part of the first Grade 9 to enter the newly-built campus in Woodbridge. My fellow students were graduates of the Christian schools in the Springdale, Holland Marsh, Willowdale, Rexdale, Brampton, and Georgetown.  

In Grade 10, in a course called Man in Society taught by vice-principal Bert Witvoet, we worked to develop a Christian worldview. On the question of whether a Christian school should be a protective shield against the fallen world, Mr. Witvoet instead compared it to a military boot camp; his goal was to teach effective tactics, both defensive and offensive, to prepare young Christians for engagement with a hostile secular culture. 

That Christian worldview approach meant that our entire school travelled to Montreal in the spring of 1967 to experience Expo 67: “Man and his World.” It meant an all-day school assembly to hear a visiting professor from the Free University of Amsterdam present his worldview understanding of Western popular music. That all-day assembly with Dr. Hans Rookmaaker was the day I committed my life to follow Jesus Christ and to serve in his kingdom.  

About the time when I caught on to the worldview approach taught at TDCH, I learned that the school society was engaged in a tremendous struggle about what should be taught at the school. It resulted in a great deal of division and hurt for the staff, board, students, families, and community. 

As the valedictorian, I poured out my heart to the deeply divided school association. I used the school motto as my theme; I still have my high school ring engraved with the Latin phrase “Omnia in luce Christi videamus,” which means, “We see everything in the light of Christ.” My deepest hope was that the school association would come together again and continue the good work our class had enjoyed. 

When Margaret and I moved to Woodbridge in 1985, part of our reason was to live close to the high school we wanted our children to attend. All five of our children—two daughters and three sons—are TDCH graduates.  

I was Chairman of the Board in 1996. With Ren Siebenga as principal and Jennie Das as chief organizer, our board led the community in the Seeds of Hope campaign to renew the high school physically and academically. Our school community wholeheartedly bought into the movement to prepare students for Christian engagement with the information revolution and the internet age. The school renewal program that began in those years has continued each year since then!   

In my role as Chair of the Board, I was able to remind graduating classes of the great team of teachers they had worked with during their years at TDCH. I felt honoured to be present on stage representing the school association and to be giving rather than receiving that precious diploma! From my own experience, I can affirm: God is good!