The journey of how people find their calling in life can be a long and diverse one. It all depends on the people you meet, the things you try, and the places you go. Mrs. Annie Vanenburg is a CB English teacher who has been teaching for many years and has traveled great lengths — […]
The journey of how people find their calling in life can be a long and diverse one. It all depends on the people you meet, the things you try, and the places you go. Mrs. Annie Vanenburg is a CB English teacher who has been teaching for many years and has traveled great lengths — literally — to get where she is at today.
Mrs. Vanenburg came to the United States when she was just three years old so her father could pursue his entrepreneurial dreams and to move to a new place where the family could thrive and prosper.
“Growing up, I had nine and sisters, and one of the reasons we moved was because my dad really wanted a better life for his kids, but he also wanted to have his own business.”
Mrs. Vanenburg and her family’s immediate introduction to America was already a bumpy one.
“None of us knew how to speak English on our way to the U.S. — bot a single one of us. No English at all. So we get to John F. Kennedy Airport [in New York City] and there was a mix up with our flight and we didn’t know what to do because we couldn’t communicate.”
Many of us U.S. born citizens cannot comprehend the culture shock that Mrs. Vanenburg and her family experienced when they first arrived. But they began to acclimate to American life. A common thing that happened to foreigners when they came to America was to have their name changed.
“They changed all of our names because they couldn’t say them right,” Mrs. Vanenburg says. “My sister’s name was Grietje but then she was called Ellie and my sister Geertruida they called her Gertrude. My name was Anneke and they changed it to Annie.”
Mrs. Vanenburg and her family ended up in the city of Escalon in Central California.
“We moved into a Dutch Community. There’s a bunch of Dutch farmers down in Escalon — cow country I call it. A bunch of Dutch people lived there so some of them could speak Dutch ,so that was helpful and they still had some of the Dutch ways and still ate some of the same Dutch food we used to eat, so it wasn’t super hard to acclimate to American life. The hardest part, was learning English.”
Many in her family would have to take English night courses at the local community college, and Mrs. Vanenburg’s desire to teach stems from certain experiences within her family and with her own teachers growing up.
“I was really raised with my younger nieces and nephews, not my siblings, because I was so much younger than everyone,” the English teacher says. “My sister moved back to the Netherlands, so I was expected to take care of my nieces and nephews, and I just kind of felt sorry for kids because I’d see the way adults treated them sometimes, and I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s not right.’ And honestly I didn’t like any of my teachers in school, and I thought I could do better. So naturally, with those experiences, it felt right to become a teacher.”
Mrs. Vanenburg continued her teaching career when she moved from the Escalon area to Sacramento in the early 1990s.
“I taught anything from preschool to middle school before I got [to CB}. I worked at Gloria Dei Lutheran School, which is closed now, and the former principal became assistant principal at CB and he brought me over because he really liked my teaching style and said ‘Hey — why don’t you come and work over here?’, so I did.”
Nobody knows where they will be taken in life,or how their experiences will shape them, so when you think about where you are now, it’s important to acknowledge those experiences that gotten you where you are today.
Mrs. Vanenburg’s journey here has been a blessing in disguise. Without her lived experiences and her journey to get here, the Christian Brothers community would be left without her special presence and energy she brings to campus.