Our community is very fortunate to have so many women genuinely deserving of public recognition for their capable and selfless contributions, as the field of this year’s nominees demonstrated. This year’s Distinguished Woman of the Year Award goes to Kaye Nedderman.
Kaye was born in Muskegon, and lived in the area until her family moved to Grand Rapidswhen she was in 7th grade. While attending CrestonHigh School, she was named “Outstanding Junior Girl,” served as secretary of her senior class, and president of the Future Teachers Club. She was among the top 10 academic achievers in her graduating class.
Despite her father’s insistence that additional education was “nonsense” for someone whose role in life was destined to be a wife and mother, Kaye enrolled at Western Michigan University. In her sophomore year, Kaye joined the Sigma Kappa Sorority, an organization she continues to support today.
Here, the timeline of Kaye’s life gets a bit crowded. Within the span of 12 months, Kaye married her husband John, completed her classwork at WMU, took on her student teaching assignment, gave birth to the couple’s first son, and a month later, graduated from the university with a teaching certificate. While John was completing his MBA at Western, Kaye took her first teaching position in nearby Oshtemo, teaching 7th and 8th grade science and math. The following year, the couple and their young son moved to Spring Lake, and Kaye began what was to be a decades-long career as a junior high science teacher with Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Kaye timed her career move well – spending just a semester with her 9th grade students in the old 7th Street building before moving into the brand new junior high school on Griffin Street.
Kaye’s dedication to her students may be measured by the accolades she’s accumulated over the years. She was singled out on four separate occasions by students who named her as the teacher who most influenced them during their school careers. Those Grand Haven Area Community Foundation recognitions were given in 1987, 1989, 1993 and 1995. In 1994 the school district recognized Kay with its Excellence in Service Award.
Those who wrote letters in support of Kaye’s Woman of the Year nomination repeatedly championed her dedication to her students and her mission to provide them with the most comprehensive, up-to-date, hands-on science education possible. She was hailed as a lifelong learner, and someone committed to remaining current in her field.
Even in retirement, Kaye continues to work to improve the district’s science curriculum, taking on the thankless task of restocking and distributing the classroom’s “Battle Creek Science Kits.” We hear she’s also been known to scour ALL the area’s dollar stores for the best price on Science Kit materials – like cotton balls. She then works with the teaching staff to ensure they are confident and prepared to fully utilize the materials, even offering one-on-one assistance in individual classrooms.
Her dedication is considered a key component in the district’s high student test scores in the sciences, and for their continued success at science competitions. Kaye’s dedication to education has been officially recognized with plaques and certificates, but it’s recognition by her former students that perhaps best tells the story.
And, after watching a muddied plume spread from the mouth of the Grand River into Lake Michigan, Kaye channeled that passion into the creation of a new, non-profit volunteer environmental organization. Clean up Our River Environment, or CORE, was established in 2006 to address environmental issues affecting the Grand River and its watershed. Under Kaye’s leadership, CORE has worked with Ottawa County to ban phosphorus in fertilizers and launch a program to collect unused medications and personal care products in an ongoing effort to keep the drugs out of the water system. She also secured a grant to purchase watershed models and, since 2008, has instructed middle school students in the vital role of the Grand River Watershed.
Throughout the summer, Kaye helps collect weekly water samples as part of the Blue-Green Algae project sponsored by Michigan Sea Grant. She helps plan annual Earth Day activities; monitors the sturgeon migration with the Sturgeon Watch program; lends a hand with park and beach clean-ups; and worked with the Grand Haven High School’s Green Club to install water filling stations. These stations are credited with keeping thousands of plastic water bottles out of circulation and out of the landfill.
To learn more about this annual award, click on the Woman of the Year page.