28 Years With No End In Sight: Mr. Van Treek


Mr. Van Treek teaching on September 6, 2022, taken by Hannah Kenyon

Mr. Van Treek is a major influence in the Lambert community. He was named Teacher of the Year in Lambert’s opening year, is English Department Chair and has been teaching for 28 years. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes his classes so special when he stands out from the rest through his class-opening riddles, inquisitive nature and disarming personality. Through 28 years of teaching, Mr. Van Treek has taught almost 4,000 students, been to schools across Georgia and has been able to make every year as special as the last one.

While his passion for reading and writing was a factor in his decision to pursue teaching, his journalism teacher served as a greater inspiration to his career. His role as editor of his school newspaper cultivated a close relationship with her and he appreciated that she was the first teacher to treat him like an adult. In combination with her influence on him, his aspirations to be a high school English teacher were affirmed after watching the movie, “Dead Poets Society.” 

As surprising as it may be, Van Treek was initially terrified of public speaking, which would have driven him away from the career, but he chose to stick with his path in teaching.

“Getting up in front of people was terrifying to me, but you don’t have a choice,” Van Treek said. “You get up and you’re prepared because you don’t want students to think you’re not.”

Van Treek felt the need to teach because he “hates to see people be ignorant and celebrate their ignorance.” As a way to keep students on their toes and to curb the threat of ignorance, he starts every class with a riddle and trivia. He feels that it’s a necessary practice to keep students engaged and excited to come to his class.

As a new teacher, he was advised by other teachers to be firm, fair and consistent, but recognized that he has none of these qualities as a teacher and knows that every student must be treated differently because every situation is different.

When speaking about his unconventional classroom practices, he said, “I want to talk to students, I want to have great dialogue with them.” He continued, “I just want to make sure things are fresh and fun.”

Mr. Van Treek teaches mostly the same works of literature every year. While some would get tired of studying the same writings every year, he finds the most excitement in how every class reacts differently to every work. 

Van Treek effortlessly creates a classroom where students feel comfortable and inspired by being honest. He wants to learn about his students while also opening up about experiences of his own and can’t stress enough how students are the best part of his job. He loves to see his students learn, grow and become better readers and writers, but most importantly, he loves to see his students’ destinies. 

“I’ve taught almost 4,000 students now and they’re all my kids,” Van Treek said. “And to see my kids all over the world and the successes and the highs and lows of my children is what makes this job so much fun.”

Working with thousands of students has opened his eyes to every type of situation, but every student is unique in their own way. Although, as time passes and things change, there can be a lot of consistencies. In a cyclical way, he sees qualities of his former students in current students, and he doesn’t believe that students have changed all that much over the last 28 years. There have always been forms of distractions, but he finds the most change in the rising levels of depression and anxiety that contribute to student apathy. He combats these issues by being consciously empathetic and understanding that his students have lives outside of his classroom.

Lambert is all the better with a teacher like Mr. Van Treek who goes above and beyond and works to understand his students as much as they understand him. While he has the option to move up as an administrator, he only sees himself working directly with students and making his impact that way. 

“They’re gonna have to drag me out of here with a cane,” Mr. Van Treek said.