Social Studies Teacher Brings Real Life Experience Back To Floral Park


Jake Torres, Staff Writer

As the newest member of the Social Studies Department, now in his fourth year, Mr. Vanenburg has some catching up to do with some of his more well-traveled colleagues. Ms. Pari, the chairperson, Ms. Dierlem and Ms. Linger have been overseas numerous times while Ms. Francis is getting closer to her goal of visiting all 50 states.

But Mr. Vanenburg has made many trips himself, and the recent experience that he had in Hong Kong, China was certainly one of his more inspirational ones.

After 20 years of training in Kung Fu, Mr. Vanenburg’s group felt it was ready to compete in a tournament in China. There were three levels – gold, silver and bronze. The focus of his competition was called the Seven Star Praying Mantis. His sifu, or teacher, was Raul Ortiz.

“Performing from different banquets was very exciting,” said Mr. Vanenburg. “We were treated like ambassadors from the United States.”

Mr. Vanenburg teachers four sections of eighth grade social studies this year and one section of the senior Economics and Government courses. Prior to arriving at Floral Park Memorial, he taught at New Hyde Park Memorial. Before entering the teaching profession, Mr. Vanenburg worked at GEICO.

“My late wife encouraged me to pursue teaching,” said Mr. Vanenburg about the decision to change careers.

Mr. Vanenburg said that the competition made him realize how much harder he has to work on his skills and talents in Kung Fu. He certainly intends to practice much more. With so much time dedicated to the competition, he did not have as much time as he would have liked to sightsee.

This was not the first trip for Mr. Vanenburg. He has also been to the West Indies, Europe and other parts of Asia. He has also been to Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. When he was a kid, his father worked for the airlines so this helped his family to travel a lot.

“I would definitely like to go back to China in the future,” said Mr. Vanenburg.

Mr. Vanenburg has also been a boys’ basketball coach, having played himself in high school at Holy Trinity in Hicksville. The best player he ever played with was Matt Doherty, would became a McDonald’s All-American and attended the University of North Carolina with a name you may have heard of, Michael Jordan.

“Just this week, I was teaching about the Progressive Era and so many of my students remembered lessons that Mr. Vanenburg taught them three years ago,” said Mr. Simone. “He is such a classy person and a great addition to our staff.”

This is an experience that Mr. Vanenburg can share with all of the students at Floral Park Memorial.