Gerard Van Gils, more popularly known among his students as “Mr. G,” was named the 2017 Teacher of the Year by the Public School System yesterday during the Education Day celebration at Koblerville Elementary School.
Van Gils, a teacher at Kagman High School, was selected out of 21 nominees representing all public schools in the CNMI.
He said that winning the prestigious award caught him by surprise as the other nominees are more experienced compared to him.
“I don’t think I was expecting it because I am relatively new in this career and there are many great teachers who have been doing this for a long time. I am, of course, honored to be named Teacher of the Year, but it was an honor just to be considered among these many great teachers,” he said.
Van Gils said he is currently working with KHS on a college preparation program to solve the problem of not having enough college-bound people on Saipan and to help students do well in college.
“We want to help our kids to not just succeed in high school but to succeed in college as well,” he said.
Together with KHS principal Leila Staffler, Van Gils initiated a college preparation program called “Million Dollar Scholars,” with the goal to raise money for students planning to go to college.
“Our goal was to raise $1 million in scholarship money in order to help our students go to college. In the end, we raised $2.5 million in scholarships, including six Gates Millennium Scholars,” he said. “In the entire history of our school, we’ve never had any GMS, and this year we had six. [A total of] 55,000 people applied for that scholarship. They only give 1,000. Six of my students won that scholarship.”
Van Gils wants other high schools to emulate the KHS’ Million Dollar Scholar program.
“I’d like to see high schools further prepare their kids to go to college, to teach them to write college scholarship essays, and to prepare them in their junior year of high school, for college,” he said. “I really like to help other schools. I hope that I’d be invited to speak in those schools and I hope that the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Education will ask for recommendations on how they can spread the message of the Million Dollar Scholars.”
Aside from Van Gils, the 2017 Teacher Aide of the Year is Grace Belyea and the Instructor of the Year is Angelina Fitial.
Belyea has been working with PSS for over 10 years. She is currently a teacher aide at the Garapan Elementary School.
“I work with students of special education. I assist with their needs and their educational endeavors,” she said.
Belyea said her experience played a vital role in her success as a teacher aide.
“I think my experience with different students is what really contributed to my win. I also don’t complain about my job. I just do it,” she said.
Yesterday, Belyea felt overwhelmed when her name was announced in front of all of the other teachers at Koblerville Elementary School.
“I didn’t expect it. I submitted all my requirements, but I just didn’t expect to win because I’m not from here,” said Belyea.