Encouraging Students to
Pursue their Passions
In Big Picture Learning, the internship-based, interest-focused academic experience we offer is not only defined by the internship experience students receive, but the in-class instruction they obtain at NorthPointe Christian. Our Big Picture Learning teachers are instrumental in the success of our program, our students, and their life-long success.
Meet Our Teachers
In addition to the leadership and directional oversight provided by Bill VanDyk, three Big Picture Learning teachers work tirelessly to provide an academic environment where students learn, develop their God-given gifts, and integrate their internship experience into class projects and discussions. Meet Scott Hoffman, Allyson Beeke, and Elly Herbruck, our current Big Picture Learning teachers.
Scott Hofman is our Big Picture Learning Math teacher. A Grand Rapids native, he graduated from Calvin University and Grand Valley State University before joining the Big Picture Learning team in 2019. In his math classes and interactions with students, he enjoys integrating spiritual and academic formation with the goal of equipping students to serve others through their gifts, talents and interests.
Allyson Beeke is our Big Picture Learning Humanities teacher. Also a Grand Rapids native, she graduated from Calvin University and taught in classrooms in California, Cambodia, and Canada before joining the Big Picture Learning team. As our Humanities teacher, Allyson enjoys facilitating classroom discussions that help students reflect on the world, their studies, and their faith in Christ.
Elly Herbruck is our Big Picture Learning Science teacher. A Grand Rapids native and 2017 graduate of NorthPointe Christian, Elly attended Cornerstone University and joined the Big Picture Learning team in 2021. In her science courses, Elly delights to help students see God’s power, love and creativity in every detail of creation.
Why Teachers Love Big Picture Learning
In conversation with our Big Picture Learning teachers, each cited several reasons why they love Big Picture Learning. These include the relational nature of the program itself, along with opportunities to holistically address a student’s academic needs, walk with students in their faith journeys, and witness the development of a student’s gifts and interests through their internship experience.
Both teachers and students alike cite the relational, family-like nature of the Big Picture Learning program. While Big Picture Learning students are integrated with other NorthPointe students in Bible and elective courses, the remainder of their classes – math, science, and humanities – are self-contained, only with fellow Big Picture Learning students. This allows a very familial, tight-knit community to be formed among teachers and students. These relationships allow teachers to holistically address each student’s academic needs, encourage them in their walk with Christ, and assess their strengths. Similarly, this tight-knit community allows teachers to be invested in each student’s internship, helping them assess and hone their strengths, using in-class projects and discussions to further develop the skills necessary for success in their internship and real life. These relationships also allow teachers to help students discover their passions, talents and interests, and help connect them with the right internship opportunities.
Our Big Picture Learning teachers are deeply invested in and committed to the success and holistic development of every student, and this is reflected in the action steps they take to encourage and equip their students for lifelong learning and success.
Encouraging Life-Long Learning
Each Big Picture Learning teacher encourages and equips each student for lifelong learning and success through their classroom instruction, innovative curriculum approach, and the internship integration they welcome in their classroom.
Each teacher has their own unique methods and ways of equipping their students for lifelong learning and success. For Scott Hofman, his approach to mastery-based math learning allows students to, at minimum, adhere to his pace, or go faster. In past years, Scott has had students complete two years of math in one year. For Allyson Beeke, her Humanities courses mix direct instruction with research, brainstorming, project work, presentations, and in-class discussions. In Elly Herbruck’s science class, a ‘question of the day’ kicks off discussion before Elly teaches the day’s content and grants students time for self-directed learning and research projects.
One of the most common questions we receive about our Big Picture Learning program pertains to its curriculum. While Big Picture Learning students follow the exact same curriculum plan and content as other students in our traditional and Spanish Immersion programs, the pacing and assessment methods employed by Big Picture Learning teachers are different from other NorthPointe teachers.
Take Scott Hofman’s math classes, for example – his students must maintain his pace (which is the same rule for traditional and Spanish Immersion students), but they can work at a more advanced pace, if they prefer. This allows all students to stay at a comfortable, traditional pace, while permitting students who are gifted in math to work at a more advanced pace with Scott’s help and oversight.
In Allyson Beeke’s humanities class, she uses class time to teach students broad concepts and topics, then assigns a project that allows students to choose what they want to study in-depth. For example, in a recent unit on the Middle Ages, one of Allyson’s students created a project about early forms of music. By the end of the project, the student made a lyre and learned how to play a song on it, which he performed for the class. Another student, during the same Middle Ages unit, took on the role of a fashion designer. In this project, she researched clothing materials and types, production methods, and how dyes were made. The end result? The student made an outfit that was common during the Middle Ages and wore it during her in-class presentation.
In Elly Herbruck’s science courses, she partners with the entire NorthPointe science department to ensure her units and material are cohesive and in alignment with the other science courses offered. However, her methods of assessment are different from other teachers. While most teachers focus on lectures and unit tests, Elly employs project-based learning to engage students with the science content she teaches and assess each student’s understanding.
Another hallmark of Big Picture Learning courses is the ways each teacher welcomes and promotes internship integration in the classroom. Due to the tight-knit community Big Picture Learning promotes, teachers are faithful to follow up with each student and ask for frequent updates about how their internship is going. Because of the project-based nature of classroom instruction, students’ learning environments mirror that of their internship – many of them with long-term projects or tasks they’re assigned to.
In addition, each student is required to give an internship presentation for an end-of-semester exhibition. Each internship mentor comes alongside the student and helps them with creating the concept and executing it in their presentation. Some examples of previous semester projects include creating a website, designing and producing new products for a company to sell, designing animal living spaces, and many more. When Big Picture Learning students are seniors, they take an Advisory project, where they receive mentorship from teachers to develop a year-long, cumulative project that they present prior to graduation.
Each of these methods of internship integration allows ongoing development of hard skills that students need to succeed in their internship – creativity, innovation, problem solving, communication, and ability to work in groups with others. Our teachers are committed to fostering the ongoing development of these skills, and delight to witness each student’s creativity, innovation, and curiosity develop throughout the year.
A Word for Prospective Big Picture Learning Families
Each year, the Big Picture Learning program continues to grow, and our teachers and students would love to welcome your high school student into their community of learning, creativity, innovation, and exploration. We’d like to offer you a few words of wisdom and insight from our current teachers, with the hopes that this will encourage you in your discernment.
First, NorthPointe Christian firmly believes that education is a partnership with families – it’s not an isolated experience in a school building. As such, Big Picture Learning allows your family and student to identify your values and tailor your student’s internship experience to align with those values and achieve their goals. Big Picture Learning uniquely allows students and their parents to design a learning experience that fits their passions, interests, talents and goals.
Second, Big Picture Learning is for students who are interested in something. That interest will drive their internship pursuits and overall success in the program. Each student will receive support not only from their NorthPointe teachers and classmates, but their internship coworkers, mentors, and others in the greater Grand Rapids community.
Finally, the Big Picture Learning program and teachers are fiercely committed to the academic, social, spiritual, and professional success of students. While internship and project-based learning is different from ‘traditional’ schooling, the same core curriculum is being taught and students are being uniquely equipped for life-long learning and success in their future careers and educational pursuits.
Are you interested in Big Picture Learning for your high school student? We’d love to meet with you, give you a tour, and discuss the program’s offerings. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your tour and receive more information.