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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Joe Van Gelder brings new perspective to WA’s student support team

Scarlett Barnes
Van Gelder sits at his desk and smiles for a picture.

Coming from several different teaching positions at Concord Carlisle, Groton Dunstable, and Chelmsford, Joe Van Gelder is ready to take on his first year at Westford Academy. Van Gelder grew up in Chelmsford and graduated from Umass Amherst and Cambridge College. As an experienced teaching assistant, he is excited to have a chance to bring his teaching strategies to WA and make kids feel comfortable, safe, and happy in his classroom. 

Q: How are you enjoying your year so far? 

A: So far, so good. The people have been very helpful. The teachers who have been my mentors have been super helpful. Everyone’s been really great. Kids are great. 

Q: Is there anything that specifically attracted you to come work at WA?

A: I grew up in Chelmsford, and I have two young kids, but I now live in Westford. So wanting to be in a good school district that’s nearby was definitely something. I also just finished my master’s last year, and my student teaching last year. So when this opened up it was an easy decision to apply here.

Q: How did you finish your teaching degree last year?

A: I finished my master’s last fall, and I did my student teaching all last year at Groton Dunstable. 

Q: What college did you go to?

A:  For my undergrad I went to UMass Amherst, and my grad program was at Cambridge College.

Q: What other teaching experiences do you have before coming here?

A: I was at Groton Dunstable last year and I was teaching fifth graders. I was also at Chelmsford High School for a year. Then, before COVID I was at Concord Carlisle High School for seven years.

Q: Compared to those schools do you find WA to be more scary coming in for your first year?

A: I feel like my experience at Concord was very helpful for Westford. I feel like they’re very similar towns, similar people that work and live here. So I relate to that experience a lot.

Q: Did you go to college with the intent of becoming a teacher or a teaching assistant? Or did you go into college for something else?

A: I originally did not. I coached basketball and everyone told me that I’d be a teacher someday, and I didn’t believe them. Then I finally realized that I would be, and so I started working after college at Concord and then did my grad school. Now I’m here.

Q: What did you originally go to college for? Did you go in undecided?

A: I was a public health major, for no reason. That was just because I had to pick something and that’s what I picked. Within that, I ended up doing a minor in education. So then, halfway through college I started realizing that teaching was probably going to be it.

Q: Where did you coach basketball? Did you coach any other sports? 

A: I’ve been the basketball coach in Chelmsford, and coached high school basketball at Concord for six years and then up in the last couple years, I was the assistant to Chelmsford High. Then, in Concord, I coached basketball for a couple years and then I helped coach golf for two years. 

Q: Is coaching at WA something you would potentially be interested in?

A: Probably down the road once I get more settled in this year. I’m kind of just figuring out my way around things. I don’t want to put too much on my plate.

Q: Have there been any specific experiences in your teaching career so far that have really impacted you?

A: When I taught at Chelmsford there was this one kid who had a really hard time and had some pretty severe learning difficulties. Then after he graduated he ended up coming back to visit me and told me that I had really helped him through those hard times of his life. So those types of situations are always incredibly rewarding.

Q: Outside of teaching, what are some of your favorite hobbies or things to do?

A: I love to play basketball and golf, golf is what the old man plays now, since basketball is a little too intense. I also love to go to Rye Beach in New Hampshire and York Harbour up in Maine in the summer with my wife, my daughter who is three and a half, and my son who is almost one.

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About the Contributors
Scarlett Barnes, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Scarlett Barnes and I’m a sophomore staff writer for the Westford Academy Ghostwriter. This is my first year in journalism. I play sports year round at WA; cross country in the fall, swim and dive in the winter, and track and field in the spring. In my free time I really enjoy going on runs, listening to music, and reading books. I am really looking forward to my first year of journalism and all the new experiences I will make being a part of the Ghostwriter. 
Sara Metivier, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Sara Metivier and I am a freshman at WA. I’m excited to be writing and contributing to the Ghostwriter this year since it is my first year being a part of the newspaper. Other than writing I love listening to music, shopping, baking, reading, and hanging out with my friends. I am also on a lacrosse and swim team which I love being a part of. The reason that I joined the Ghostwriter is because I love writing and want to expand my skills and also help contribute to the paper. I am excited to be able to write about things that I love and have interest in this year!

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