Vandenberg has been with Gobles Public Schools for thirteen years as part of the itinerant staff assigned to the district by the Van Buren County Intermediate School District. As school social worker her primary role is to work with students and assist teachers in the creation and implementation of plans and strategies that develop successful academic behaviors in the students she serves.
In Gobles and across the county and state, Karla has developed a reputation as a compassionate and accomplished clinician and a tireless advocate for her students, respected by students, staff, peers, and administrators. She has also devoted much time and energy advancing the profession of school social work. She recently began teaching graduate courses in school social work at Western Michigan University.
Like all school social workers, Karla spends a great deal of her time “behind the scenes”, and much of the work she does can be invisible to the larger school and community. Her work has included securing grants and developing programs to benefit students and educators in Gobles, and she has been instrumental in helping create the systems and policies used in Gobles to take care of kids.
After thirteen years in Gobles, Vandenberg’s work is no longer invisible, especially to her students. She has become a fixture for students who call her Miss Karla and depend on her support and encouragement as part of their school experience.
“During open times in Gobles my office fills with kids who want to share their lives with me and the stories of their successes,” Vandenberg said. “There are times when my job requires tough love for kids, but the payback is to see them succeed.”
She has also become a fixture for her colleagues on the Gobles teaching staff who call her a tireless advocate for students, social work services, and programs.
“Karla is never off the clock,” said high school teacher Corey Harbaugh. “Her work has benefitted every teacher in Gobles and virtually every student and family we serve. We’re lucky to have her here.”
Vandenberg is quick to deflect the praise. “I love being part of the Gobles staff,” she said. “People really care about kids, and that’s what we’re all about.”
“One of my greatest joys as a social worker is to see my kids cross that stage during graduation and receive a diploma,” Vandenberg said. “To see a student grow into a confident young man or woman with a bright future makes all the work worthwhile. I’m honored for this award, but really, it’s for the kids.”