VICKSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — This holiday season, students of a Vicksburg area teacher, who is colorblind, are making sure he can experience the vibrant colors of a Michigan sunset, Christmas lights display and the springtime bloom.
Room 113 is where the future generation at Vicksburg Middle School learns about the past with history teacher Zach Wierenga.
While he’s big into history books, Wierenga is also an open book about his own story. He was born red-green colorblind, passed on from his mom’s side.
“It’s not a big deal until I’m driving at night. I’m not sure if a blinking light is red or yellow. So, that’s really the biggest impact it has on me daily. I always ask my wife the night before if my clothes match. So, we’re good there,” he said.
After explaining to his students what colorblindness is and showing them color-blind glasses, two students decided that they wanted to give back to their favorite teacher.
Eight graders Jaelyn Kellems and Maguire Bowles launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe and in person. Within a matter of days, they got all the money they needed from middle school students, high school students and their families.”
“Kids our age, if they have $250, they’d spend it on video games… shoes… sports equipment, maybe, if they wanted like gloves for football. $250 is a lot of money for us, and why not give it back to the teachers who help us?” Maguire said.
Last week, students were called into his classroom for the surprise.
“When they made the announcement of ‘All head to Mr. Wierenga’s room,’ I was like ‘Oh boy, what’s going on?'” Wierenga said.
Everyone was packed into his classroom and recording on their phones when he was given a surprise pair of colorblind glasses.
“When he put them on, his face just lit up. He was so shocked. I don’t think he even thought it was real,” Jaelyn said.
“It’s like being at a movie theater when the surround sound comes on and you see ‘THX’. That’s really how it felt for me. Everything was coming, ‘Wow,’ vibrant. It’s like wearing a VR headset — things being so much more detailed,” Wierenga said.
To this teacher, husband and father, being able to see more of this world meant the world and more.
“Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. It was a life-changing moment for me. It just reaffirms that when I come here… it’s for the right reasons,” he said.
— News 8 reporter David Horak contributed to this report.