She made it a habit to congratulate her students upon their graduation from high school. She would send a written note to commemorate the occasion, albeit thirteen years after she first launched their educational careers.
Imagine opening a note on graduation day from your kindergarten teacher!
The eloquent tradition she started can be a valuable lesson on how to maximize a life’s calling and continue to touch lives and make a difference far into the future.
For thirty-two years, Ina Van Duyn taught for Carmel Clay schools. She worked in many of the district’s buildings but retired with distinction in 2001 from Cherry Tree Elementary.
She was named the Carmel Clay Teacher of the Year in 1998, and in 1999 Van Duyn received honors as a top 10 teacher in all of Indiana.
But it is what she is doing since retirement that is noteworthy and possibly, the most rewarding.
She said, “It brings me absolute joy. Even when my feet hurt and I’m dead tired, when I get home I know something good has happened.”
Ina is talking about Westminster Neighborhood Ministries. It is the place she spends her Mondays, providing tutoring services to children who live on the near eastside of Indianapolis. They need her. That has been proven time and time again.
True to her style, Van Duyn has taken her assigned tutoring duties past just reading and writing. She could be called more of a mentor, helping her charges deal with the daily struggles of life.
In many cases, she is confronted with children who are afraid to go home.
“Because of challenging situations at home or the environment of the neighborhood, these kids have nobody to depend on. They struggle to know the right way. It is my job to point them in the right direction, and I want to do that,” she said.
She and husband Jim have done their best to provide as many happy moments as possible. Like taking the kids to the Children’s Museum or to a Purdue football game.
Even the little things – like teaching them how to properly use a fork – instill pride and self-confidence in her students.
“(Mentoring) brings both absolute delight and absolute sadness at the same time,” she said. “But I know I am supposed to be there. No doubt in my mind I am to be there for those girls for whatever they need.”
Teachers don’t really retire.